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Dr. Frederick W. True, the author of the present memoir, has here brought together extensive original data relative to the external and osteological characters of the large whales of the western North Atlantic, for the purpose of determining whether the species are the same on both sides of that ocean. The facts have been derived from a study of fresh specimens at the Newfoundland whaling stations, the collection of the United States National Museum, and the skeletons in other large museums of the United States. Special study was given to the type-specimens of American species proposed by Professor E. D. Cope and Captain C. M. Scammon, all of which, with one exception, were examined by the author.
The investigation is preparatory to a study of the geographical distribution and migrations of the larger cetaceans in the North Atlantic, which could not be undertaken until the identity of the species themselves was determined. Numerous facts, however, relating to the occurrence of whales at different points off the coasts of North America, and the seasons of their appearance and disappearance, have been assembled.
The results of the investigation show that several American species which have been proposed are quite certainly nominal, and that, as a whole, the species of the Atlantic coast of North America cannot be distinguished from those of European waters.
Some attention has been paid to the whales of the North Pacific. The information previously recorded has been brought together in orderly sequence and various new facts added, but the amount of material at present available is insufficient to serve as a basis for discrimination of closely allied species. It is certain, however, that the whales of the North Pacific, with one exception, bear an extremely close resemblance to those of the North Atlantic. The California Gray whale, Rhachianectes glaucus, has no counterpart in the Atlantic.
One well-known European species, the Pollack whale, Balenoptera borealis, not previously known in North American waters, was observed at the Newfoundland whaling stations while this volume was passing through the press.
The illustrations include views of the type-specimens of the species proposed
by Cope and Scammon; also numerous representations of the different individuals of the Common Finback and the Sulphurbottom, from photographs taken by the author at the Newfoundland whaling stations. The latter are of special value for the study of individual variation in these huge animals.
In accordance with the rule of the Institution this paper has been referred to a committee consisting of Doctor Theodore Gill, Associate in Zoology, United States National Museum, Doctor J. A. Allen, Curator of Mammalogy in the American Museum of Natural History, New York, and Doctor Leonhard Stejneger, Curator in the Department of Biology, United States National Museum.
S. P. LANGLEY,
Washington, D. C., June, 1904.