Take a Closer Look at The World's Biggest Heart

September 19, 2015 | Sarah Tse

A blue whale heart preserved in formaldehyde
Photo credit: Screenshot of footage from PBS/Big Blue Live

Scientists finally determined how large a blue whale's heart is after a rare intact specimen washed ashore in Canada.

Although myths abound about blue whales and their "swimming-pool-sized" arteries, it's hard for scientists to actually get their hands on a specimen. So when a blue whale washed up onto the shore of Newfoundland, Canada, scientists from the Royal Ontario Museum jumped on this unprecedented chance to study the anatomy of these gargantuan animals. The 23.3-m long whale died after being trapped in ice and appeared on the coast in May 2014. It took four scientists to wade through the whale's innards and free their cardiological prize from its prison of bone and muscle. The heart itself weighs in at a whopping 180 kg — about the weight of two grown men — and required 1,000 gallons of formaldehyde for its first bath. Completely preserving such a large specimen will take some time, but once it’s ready, the heart and its owner’s skeleton will go up on display at the museum.


Learn more about blue whales from PBS’s Big Blue Live series!

Hot Topics

Facebook comments