Last week I blogged about the first show of Channel 4 series looking at large animal anatomy, Inside Nature’s Giants, wherein they dissected an elephant.
I recorded the second show – about a whale – this week and just got around to watching it. It was equally fascinating. They opened up a fin whale that had beached and died off the coast of Ireland; they did this on the beach, the only episode not taking place at the Royal Veterinary College. The show was therefore as much about the difficulties of the dissection – using diggers, fighting the rain and tide – as about the 60-ton animal itself.
They showed the skeletal structures that prove that whales used to be land mammals – they have vestigal hind legs – that evolved for the ocean.
They showed that the structure that allows the whale to make sounds is also the structure that lets it initiate its gallop-like swimming motion.
They showed the structure of baleen, the chitinous mesh that lets the whale filter its food from seawater.
There were points at which people were totally enclosed by squelching pools of whale innards. It was soooooo cool.