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Endangered Gray Whale Bones Unearthed as Students and Researchers Take On Super Science Project

Japanese students learn about the ocean in a project helping university researchers to recover the bones of an endangered gray whale in Chiba that died in 2016.



gray whale
Junior high and high school students help scientists digging out gray whale bones from the sand = afternoon of January 28. (Photo provided by Japan 3D Education Association)

In late January, whale bones were dug up from a beach on the Boso Peninsula in Chiba Prefecture. In this case, the bones belonged to a rare species known as the gray whale that had washed up on the beach in 2016. It had been buried where it was found to make a skeletal specimen. 

The huge skeleton was retrieved from the sand in January. It measured approximately 9 meters in length. Researchers from Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology (Minato-ku, Tokyo) took the lead, helped by junior and senior high school students from Tokyo and nearby prefectures. In this case, the students participated as part of a science education program.

Learning from the Gray Whale Bones

On that afternoon, each of the bones was dug out one by one, including ribs and the skull. Next, they were laid out one after another on a sheet spread out on the beach.

"The ribs were about the size of a child. I was overwhelmed by the size of the whale because I never got a chance to see them in my daily life," said Ibuki Hagiwara, a 14-year-old junior high school student who participated in the event.

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A gray whale washed up on the coast in 2016. (Photo provided by the Cetacean Biology Laboratory, Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology)

Launched two years ago in 2021, the gray whale specimen initiative is part of the "Ocean Research 3D Super Science Project" by the Japan 3D Education Association (3DPERA). The organization is a general incorporated association that trains 3D engineers. With support from the Nippon Foundation, the project aims to develop professionals through research on marine biology using 3D technology.

(You can read the rest of the article on Whaling Today for deeper and unique insights into Japanese whaling culture, whale conservation efforts and sustainable whaling.)


This article is published in cooperation with the Institute of Cetacean Research in Japan. Let us hear your thoughts in our comments section.

(Read the story in Japanese.)

Author: Eiji Tamazaki


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