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A Paleontologist Digs Into The Science Of Whales

Aug 23, 2018

They can weigh over a hundred tons, live their entire lives underwater, and some even hunt using sound through a method known as echolocation. Yet, whales are also complex social creatures who share much in common with humans.

Pakicetus & Blue Whale- linocut illustration by Alex Boersma from SPYING ON WHALES
Credit Alex Boersma

This hour we talk with paleontologist Nick Pyenson about why he has dedicated his life to studying whales, or as he puts it, “Earth’s Most Awesome Creatures.” Pyenson’s new book, Spying on Whales, takes readers on a scientific quest to understand the evolutionary journey of whales from dog-sized land mammals to the ocean giants of today.

We ask Pyenson when—and why—did these creatures become so large?

We also talk about New England’s legacy of whaling and how it impacted species. And with a warming climates and melting ice, what does the future hold for whales?

Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

GUESTS:

Read an excerpt from Spying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth's Most Awesome Creatures by Nick Pyenson.

Adapted from SPYING ON WHALES: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth’s Most Awesome Creatures, by Nick Pyenson. Published on June 26, 2018 by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © Smithsonian Institution, 2018.

Chion Wolf contributed to this show.