Wednesday, April 3, 2013 - 17:24
Amber Kills Sperm Whale
Five chunks of amber weighing a total of 83 kilograms were found in the body of a sperm whale, and may have be the reason that the animal washed ashore last December on a sandy plain in Texel, Noord Holland. Taxidermist Mickel van Leeuwen announced the findings after investigating the mammal's remains. The chunks may have caused extreme constipation as they were sitting close together in the intestines of the sperm whale, according to the scientist. “The smallest pieces are as big as a fist and the largest was as big as a Skippy ball weighing 52 kilograms. Since the intestines were already stretched to full size, I assume that it caused the animal a lot of pain,” says van Leeuwen. “It is too late now to be sure that the constipation was the cause of death," he continued. "Only one to two percent of sperm whales produces amber as an excipient to make it easier to digest the pelvis of a giant squid. The amber leaves the body most of the time when the feces is dropped. Normally we don’t encounter any of this amber,” according to van Leeuwen. The amber is highly sought after by the perfume industry, which pays a high price to add the material as a scent to their perfumes. About 100 years ago,. a chunk of about 400 kilograms was found. Nature Center Ecomare in Texel says that the amber will be sold because it is too valuable to simply exhibit it. After discussion with the Ministry of Economic Affairs a portion of the money will be used for educating people about the Wadden Sea and North Sea. A small part of the amber will be maintained and exhibited by Ecomare together with the skeleton of the sperm whale. A replica was made of the full 83 kilograms of amber and will also be exhibited.