What is unusual about the beluga whale?

From: Howard Garrett (howard@orcanetwork.org)
Date: Tue Dec 04 2001 - 22:52:06 EST


What is unusual about the beluga whale?

That's a thought-provoking question. I haven't gotten up close and personal
with a beluga whale, so I may not be the best qualified to answer, but
belugas are fascinating because they have many physical characteristics
that are unique among whales, like white skin in adults and a highly
flexible melon, plus unfused neck vertebrae, allowing them to turn their
heads a bit, and also because they are so chatty. They make a vast variety
of calls, like whistles, chirps and squeaks that are impossible to
describe. They have been known as the "canaries of the sea" for their
melodious whistling. They also are like the canaries in the coal mine,
however, because some populations in the St. Lawrence River are among the
most highly contaminated marine mammals in the world and are believed to be
suffering the effects of persistent organochlorine pollutants.



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