Old Tom (killer whale)

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A killer whale swims alongside a whaling boat, with a smaller whale in between. Two men are standing, the harpooner in the bow and another manning the aft rudder, while four oarsmen are seated.
Old Tom swims alongside a whaling boat, flanking a whale calf: The boat is being towed by a harpooned whale (not visible here).
Skeleton of Old Tom in the Eden Killer Whale Museum

Old Tom (c. 1895 – 17 September 1930) was a killer whale (orca) known to whalers in the port of Eden on the southeast coast of Australia. Old Tom measured 22 feet (6.7 m) and weighed 6 tons, with a 1.02 m skull and teeth about 5.31 inches (13.4 cm) long. Old Tom was thought to be the leader of a pod of killer whales which helped the whalers by herding baleen whales into Twofold Bay.[1] The whalers then allowed the killer whales to eat the tongues and lips as their share of the kill, a practice known as the "Law of the Tongue".

On 17 September 1930, Old Tom was found dead in Twofold Bay. Before his death, he had been thought to be over 90 years old.[2] Examination of his teeth indicated he died around age 35,[3] but this method of age determination is now believed to be inaccurate for older animals.[4]

Old Tom's bones were preserved and his skeleton is now on display in the Eden Killer Whale Museum.[5]

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  1. ^ Gaskin, David Edward (1972). Whales, dolphins, and seals, with special reference to the New Zealand region. St. Martin's Press. p. 120. ISBN 0-435-62285-4. OCLC 704625. 
  2. ^ W. F., Perrin (September 5–19, 1978). Growth of Odontocetes and Sirenians: Problems in Age Determination. International Conference on Determining Age of Odontocete Cetaceans (and Sirenians). La Jolla: International Whaling Commission. p. 144. 
  3. ^ Mitchell, E. and Baker, A. N. (1980). Age of reputedly old Killer Whale, Orcinus orca, 'Old Tom' from Eden, Twofold Bay, Australia, in: W. F. Perrin and A. C. Myrick Jr (eds.): Age determination of toothed whales and sirenians, pp. 143–154 Rep. Int. Whal. Commn (Special Issue 3), cited in Know the Killer Whale, The Dolphin's Encyclopaedia. Retrieved January 27, 2010
  4. ^ Olesiuk, Peter F.; Ellis, Graeme M. and Ford, John K. B. (2005). Life History and Population Dynamics of Northern Resident Killer Whales (Orcinus orca) in British Columbia Archived 2011-04-19 at the Wayback Machine., Research Document 2005/045, Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat, Fisheries and Oceans Canada. p. 33. Retrieved January 27, 2010
  5. ^ Wannan, Bill (1987). A Dictionary of Australian Folklore: Lore, Legends, Myths and Traditions. Viking O'Neil. p. 398. ISBN 978-0-670-90041-1. 

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