The Largest Animal of All Time

BlueWhalesSince I’ve previously used this blog to lament the shrinking number of chimpanzees and elephants here on planet Earth, I was thrilled to read several headlines over the past few weeks indicating that not all of the news related to charismatic megafauna is bad. Earlier this month, a team of scientists led by doctoral student Cole Monnahan at the University of Washington issued a report stating that the number of blue whales in the eastern North Pacific is actually on the increase, and that the animals in that area have now attained pre-hunting population levels. What’s more, the authors maintain that, contrary to recent reports (and common sense), the growing number of oceangoing ships do not pose a significant threat to blue whales. These are obviously encouraging trends, but they may also be a little misleading. Consider, for example, that there are still no more than 25,000 blue whales in all the world’s oceans. This strikes many people as precariously low, especially when one remembers that more than 300,000 blue whales may have once roamed the oceans. Further complicating matters, new evidence suggests that good-intentioned eco-tourists may also pose a threat to the world’s whales, an unfortunate development that couldn’t help but make me think of William Cronon’s seminal essay, “The Trouble with Wilderness.” To learn more about the precarious status of blue whales across the globe, check out the links here, here, and here. Also, the image in the overhead banner first appeared in an excellent article for National Geographic, which can be found at this link.