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Anatomical record (Hoboken, N.J. : 2007)

Seasonal and Ontogenetic Variation in Subcutaneous Adipose Of the Bowhead Whale (Balaena mysticetus).


PMID 25711480

Abstract

Cetacean evolution was shaped by an extraordinary land-to-sea transition in which the ancestors of whales became fully aquatic. As part of this transition, these mammals evolved unusually thick blubber which acts as a metabolic reservoir as well as an insulator and provides buoyancy and streamlining. This study describes blubber stratification and correlates it to seasonal variation, feeding patterns, and ontogeny in an arctic-adapted mysticete, the bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus). Bowheads are unique among mammals for possessing the largest known blubber stores. We found that adipocyte numbers in bowheads, like other mammals, do not vary with season or feeding pattern but that adipocyte size and structural fiber densities do vary with blubber depth.