Item WC1 - Piece of Baleen from a Large Whale. 

This curved and broad piece of old baleen measures about 24 inches long with a maximum width of about 6 inches.  Baleen, of course, is arranged in two series of plates in the upper jaws of Mysticete whale where it functions to strain or filter small food organisms from the sea water that these great animals engulf as they feed.  Each species of mysticetes have differences in the number, length, and fine-ness of the the “hairs” that form the medial edges of the ranks of plates in the animals’ mouths.  Right and Bowhead whales have the longest plates (up to 15” long, and the finest of the hairs).  Accordingly, they feed on the smallest sorts of food—copepods about the size of grains of rice; while California Grey Whales and Humpback whales have the shortest plates (up to a couple of feet long) with the coarsest hairs.  These animals feed on benthic invertebrates gouged out of the bottom sediments (California Grey Whales), while Humpback whales principally feed on schools of small fish, including sardines and sand launce.  The size and coloration (olive green) this piece of baleen suggests that it is probably from a Humpback whale.  Baleen is formed from keratin, the same stuff that makes up our hair and fingernails, as well as the outer shell of turtles, the horn of cattle, etc.  It can be heated and molded into many shapes.  Whale baleen was famously valuable in the 19th century for its uses in corset and shirt stays, umbrella ribs, buggy whips, etc.  It was also used for knife handles, drinking cups, shaved for upholstery stuffing, and as a substrate for engraving scrimshaw, among other uses.  One esoteric use of the relatively coarse hairs of Humpback baleen was to incorporate them into the head crests of decoys that mimicked merganser ducks.  This piece will make a great conversation piece, and possibly as material for your next knife handle or decoy project.  Good+


  Price - $25.00

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