A Whale of a Show

Unlocking the mysteries of the world’s largest mammals with old bones and new technology

A baby humpback whale (Christopher Michel/Wikimedia Commons)
A baby humpback whale (Christopher Michel/Wikimedia Commons)

It’s hard to believe that one of the biggest and oldest creatures of the planet is also the most mysterious. But whales have been around for 50 million years, and in all that time, we still haven’t figured out how many species of whales have existed—let alone how many exist today. How did these creatures of the deep get to be so big, and how did they make it back into the sea after walking on land? Most importantly, what will happen to them as humanity and its detritus increasingly encroach on their existence? The Smithsonian’s star paleontologist, Nick Pyenson, joins us to answer some of our questions about the largest mysteries on Earth, and how they fit into the story of the world’s largest ecosystem: the ocean.

Go beyond the episode:

Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.

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Have suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes!

Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman.

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Stephanie Bastek is the senior editor of the Scholar and the producer/host of the Smarty Pants podcast.


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