Did you know that whale vomit is often used in perfumes to prolong the scent? Sperm whales produce a waxy substance known as ambergris which protects their stomach lining. And when regurgitated into the sea, it reacts with salt water forming the hard substance which can sell for as much as ten grand for just a couple of pounds. But an alternative could be on the horizon.
Because it's so in demand, the hunt for ambergris has unfortunately also contributed to illegal whaling. So scientists have been working to develop a cheaper alternative based on a chemical called cis-abienol which is found in sage and fir trees. Until recently getting the chemical out of the trees wasn't worth the effort because the process was so difficult, but researchers have successfully isolated a gene from balsam firs that can be simply introduced to a yeast and grown, making large-scale production of cis-abienol possible.
It's doubtful that the cheaper alternative will actually make high-end perfumes any more affordable. But you can probably expect to find designer scents eventually labeled as being "whale puke free" which, admittedly, is a pretty great selling point. [Dawn via Ubergizmo]