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By conducting aspartic acid racemization measurements using an HPLC/fluorescence detection method, Bada analyzed the bowheads eye lenses to estimate the whales age at the time of death (2).
The eye lens of a bowhead whale is made up of dozens of layers of protein, much like an onion.
Currently, these techniques are used to estimate the age of fossils, determine the life span of bowhead whales, and detect evidence of extraterrestrial life.
Chemical Whale Tales Since 1981, whale hunters in Alaska have found at least six harpoon heads in bowhead whales that they have killed in the Beaufort Sea, southwest of the Arctic Ocean. Anthropologists at the Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC) estimate that they are between 130 and 200 years old and were probably used by Inupiat hunters in the late 1700s.
DNA stability is a major complication in the analysis of ancient genetic material.
Bada and his colleagues studied the eye lenses of 48 bowhead whale carcasses harvested between 19.