[MARMAM] Missing fin whale skeleton

Eric Archer - NOAA Federal eric.archer at noaa.gov
Sat Jan 9 12:38:44 PST 2016

I am trying to track down the skeleton of a fin whale (*Balaenoptera
physalus*) that was once hanging at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia,

The skeleton was collected by Edward Cope from San Clemente, California in
1895 and donated to the Wistar a few years later. It was described in True
1904. "The Whalebone Whales of the Western North Atlantic" as measuring 62
feet, 10 inches long. The name applied by Cope for this specimen was
velifera*, originally described in 1869, currently synonymized with *B.
physalus*. As there doesn't appear to be any surviving material for the
holotype of*Balenoptera velifera*, the specimen from the Wistar Institute
would be the next candidate to designate as a lectotype for a new
subspecies of fin whales in the eastern north Pacific: *Balaenoptera
physalus velifera*.

The skeleton is no longer at the Wistar Institute. I have been in touch
with directors at the Wistar and scoured the internet and the evidence is
that sometime soon after a new director, Hilary Koprowski, arrived in 1957,
the skeleton was shipped to the Field Museum in Chicago. However, the
current curator of the mammal collection at the Field Museum says that the
skeleton is not in their collection nor does anyone there have any
recollection or knowledge of it. It is also not in the Smithsonian or at
the American Natural History Museum.

If anyone has any knowledge of this specimen or knows of someone who might,
I would greatly appreciate their contact information. I am currently
working on writing up the description for this subspecies and would like to
identify the lectotype as well as potentially obtain some bone sample for
mitochondrial DNA sequencing. Thank you in advance.

Eric Archer


*Eric Archer, Ph.D.*
Southwest Fisheries Science Center
8901 La Jolla Shores Drive
La Jolla, CA 92037 USA
858-546-7121 (work)
858-546-7003 (FAX)

Marine Mammal Genetics Group: swfsc.noaa.gov/mmtd-mmgenetics
ETP Cetacean Assessment Program: swfsc.noaa.gov/mmtd-etp


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