Gray Whale (PSM 24093)

The whale skeleton is an immature male Gray Whale that was found dead near the mouth of the Columbia River near Chinook, Washington in March 1973.  The whale was 27 feet (8.2 m) long, weighed about 6 tons, and was about 14 months old when it died.  The entire skeleton was saved and donated to the Slater Museum of Natural History as part of the permanent collection and assigned the catalog number of 24093.  This whale was one of four that washed up on the Washington beaches in 1973.  We also have # 24091, which is also a full skeleton.  The whales were collected and prepared by Steve Jeffries (UPS graduate student), Murray L. Johnson (Slater Museum Mammal Curator), and Tim Moore (UPS graduate student) with the assistance of Dale Peterson of United Farms in Graham, Washington, under permits from NMFS/NMML.  Whale 24093 has the preparation number of SJ 77 indicating it was the 77th specimen prepared by Steve Jeffries.

Gray Whales migrate from summer feeding grounds in the North Pacific Ocean to wintering areas in lagoons along Baja California.  At birth, typically in January in Baja, whales are 4.9 m; calves grow to a mean length of 8.5 m at weaning in August, and to 9.3 m by one year of age.  Based on this life cycle, PSM 24093, at 8.2 m (27 ft), was born in Jan 1972 in Baja, weaned in Aug 1972 presumably after following its mother to the North Pacific, and then died in March 1973.  Typically, most adult Gray Whales would be in Baja Jan-Feb, but immature males migrate southward in Jan-Feb and head back north starting in March (off California).  24093 died in the northward migration or never made it to Baja and wandered until it died. [see Rice and Wolman (1971), Life History and Ecology of the Gray Whale].

Other Gray Whale facts:  In the first year of growth, females attain 66% and males 72% of their ultimate body length.  After that they slow to 7% growth per year.  Adults reach sexual maturity at 8 years (5-11 range) at a length of 11.1 m (male) and 11.7 m (female).  Physical maturity, when gray whales stop growing, occurs at about 40 years of age at lengths and weights of 13 m at 26 tons (male) and 14.1 m at 30 tons (female).  Maximum recorded lengths are 14.3 m (male) and 15 m (female).

Reference: Rice, D. W. and A. A. Wolman (1971). The Life History and Ecology of the Gray Whale (Eschrichtius robustus). Special Publications No. 3, The American Society of Mammalogists.