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How this young marine biologist is re-creating a blue whale skeleton

It was like a jigsaw puzzle for the young wildlife biologist looking at the skeletal remains of dead blue whales washed ashore on the Andhra Pradesh coast. But, he found a way to put them all together — all in just a span of two months. In the areas where some of the skeletal parts were missing, he used plaster of paris and put in stainless steel and screws to configure a life-size skeleton of the species.
 
In 2017, Kumpatla Balaji, an Andhra University alumnus, launched a project to use the skeletal remains to form the blue whale, replicating its natural anatomy structure. He was spurred to do so, after experts were unable to fit the bones collected from the Machilipatnam coast.
 
Balaji is a research scientist at the Coringa Marine Museum in Rajamahendravaram city, where the 32-ft-long life-size blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) skeleton he engineered is being preserved and on public display since early 2018.
 
“Dozens of skeletal remains of blue whales were lying with our museum, begging to be assembled,” said Balaji. “Many bones and the head part of the blue whale were brought to our museum by the Forest Department from Machilipatnam coast in 2017, helping me form the complete skeleton within two months,” the research scientist said.
 
The skeletal parts were chemically treated before being rigged together with stainless steel. “At least two bones were made of plaster of Paris as they were missing.”
 
The blue whale falls in Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Dozens of dead blue and sperm whales have washed ashore on the Nagayalanka, Machilipatnam, Kakinada, and Srikakulam coast in Andhra Pradesh since 2015. What caused their death is the subject of study.
 

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