May 25th, 2016 (Clare Peddie). VALUABLE teeth extracted from seven sperm whales that perished on a beach near Ardrossan in 2014 will be used to determine how old the animals were, what they were eating and where.
Ed Sibylline : and what about the reason of the stranding/death ? Ah, yes, burried before the necropsies… (see Whale carcasses : Yorke Peninsula Council successfully removes and buries stranded whales (Australia), link)
South Australian Museum senior researcher Dr Cath Kemper says every tooth contains a record of “where the animals are feeding and whether they change their food habits with time”.
The information may help to shed some light on this mysterious case of sperm whale beaching.
“We’ve never had a mass stranding before in South Australia,” Dr Kemper said.
“We get single animals wash up dead or occasionally come alive to shore, but … they are almost never in Gulf St Vincent, so what they were doing there and why they stranded, we don’t know.”
Mammals collections manager David Stemmer says the SA Museum is donating one set of jaws, with replica teeth, to the Ardrossan Museum. The commemorative exhibit is one way of thanking the community for helping to protect and retrieve the specimens for science.
“Dealing with this mass stranding of very big animals was only possible because of several parties co-operating really well with each other,” he said.
“That’s the Museum, National Parks and local people as well as the nearby Arrium mine operators who had the large equipment needed to deal with those whales.”
Artist Rebecca Hartman-Kearns, a contractor at the museum, made all 44 replica teeth.
“We had the real ones, so I moulded the actual teeth with silicon, then once that was finished we’d take the teeth out and cast them in resin,” she said.
“Then I painted them to make them look like real teeth.”
She said it was an enjoyable and interesting project.
“Working with the museum, you always get to do something different,” Mrs Hartman-Kearns said. “This is certainly something I never thought I’d do in my life.”