Skip to Content

The world's first upright whale skeleton is installed at the Doñana Biological Station

May 2023

From 3 to 8 of May, the assembly of a complete skeleton of a Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus physalus) (Photo 3D. Author: David Aragonés LAST-EBD), the most common whale in the North Atlantic with the Common minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) and the largest of its family after the Blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus), took place in the hall of the Doñana Biological Station in Seville (EBD-CSIC).

The specimen appeared dead floating on the coast of Ayamonte in March 1996. José Antonio Valverde, director of the EBD during the period 1964-1975 and a person closely linked to scientific collections managed its towing from the Huelva estuary to Doñana. On the same Doñana beach, the skeleton was skinned and disarticulated, which was later moved to the Biological Reserve, where the process of decomposition of the soft tissues occurred. Because of the internal state of the specimen and more specifically the state of its thoracic area, with several broken ribs and vertebrae, a  posible cause of death was a collision with a ship. In 1998 José Mª Díaz Cerpa, a specialist in bronze carvings and multidisciplinary artist known professionally as “El Vichero”, together with J.A Valverde, promoted the creation of the Marine Museum in Matalascañas. In 1999, many parts damaged were restored, cleaned and whiten completelly and exihibted as an iconic element of the museum until its closure in 2003. During the time that the museum remained closed and abandoned, it suffered episodes of vandalism that affected many parts of the whale. In 2018 the curator of the scientific Collections (ICTS-RBD) of the EBD-CSIC, Carlos Urdiales, was interested in the state of this indidvidual and proposed to instelled at the EBD-CSIC headquarters. This finally could be posible after the management of its director, Eloy Revilla, and the coordination with the Almonte City Council with the authorization for the removal of the 18.5-meter skeleton, which made it possible to return the skeleton to the artist Chiqui Díaz (Vichero’s son), where a new full restoration was carried out, this time with more modern materials.

To technically support its installation, there has been a project directed by the architect Manuel Castro Juncá of "Ramal Arquitectos" for the systems and anchor points, as well as the certification before the administration of its security. The assembly in height and its fixing has been carried out by the vertical work company "CAVAREY" and under the supervision of the rest of the team. It has been a success considering the size of the specimen and the work to adapt the skeleton to the available space, which have required rigorous counterweight calculations to ensure the stability of the structure. It is currently the only whale skeleton exhibited in a dynamic and vertical position in the world, which has meant an additional challenge in its installation. The whale will be permanently located here, the EBD-CSIC headquarters, and it will be observed at various levels as the five floors of the building are covered.

This specimen is called to be a symbol of the fundamental mission of this research institute, the understanding of biodiversity and its conservation.


Start a project

If you plan to do research in Doñana, you must bear in mind that your project must be approved by the Research Access Commission of the Doñana Participation Council. The ICTS-RBD provides assistance throughout the procedure. Read more

Request access, accommodation and/or technical and logistic support

Once your research project has been approved by ICTS-RBD, you can request access and accomodation in the Biological Reserve using this online form and/or logistic or technical support using this online form . Do not forget to read carefully the facilities’ use rules. Read more

Request biodiversity data

Raw data requests are made via the following application . In addition, it is possible to visualize ICTS-RBD biodiversity monitoring data at the Data Infrastructure and access essential ecosystem indicators at the Global Change Observatory

Bird Ringing Lab

The Bird Ringing Lab is a service of ICTS-RBD that centralizes all scientific ringing activities undertaken in Doñana, and coordinates non-metallic bird banding in Spain. Read More