whale questions

From: Tom Ford (tjfketos@rcn.com)
Date: Sat Nov 13 2004 - 01:41:14 EST

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    > From: "Sue Shirley"

    > Date: Fri, 12 Nov 2004 17:28:30 -0500
    > To: tjfketos@rcn.com
    > Subject: whale questions
    > Dr. Ford,
    > Below are some whale questions from half of my Fifth Grade science class.
    > I'll probably send the other half after I see the kids on Monday. Thank
    > you very much in advance for answering them.
    > From Julie and Peter S.: Have you ever gone swimming with a whale? What is
    > the longest bone in a whale's body? About how big is a whale's stomach?
    > What is the most common whale that strands itself? Why?
    > From Maddie and Peter K.: Do you think there are any unknown species of
    > whales? When did you start saving whales?
    > From Matthew G. and Georgianna: Why do whales breech and why?
    > From Grace and Marc: How big is a blue whale's heart? How many whales have
    > you rescued from stranding?
    > From Matt and Lily: When did you start studying whales? What is your
    > favorite species of whale? What inspired you to study whales? What is the
    > biggest whale that you have ever seen?
    > From Alison, Jamie, and Will: Do whales beach themselves on purpose?
    > From Sue Shirley the science teacher: It says in your bio that you are
    > "involved with some unusual whale research". We would love to know about
    > what unusual research you are working on.
    > Sue Shirley
    > Dedham Country Day School
    > Dedham, MA

    My that is a prodigious list of good question. Here goes.

    1) Dear Julie and Peter S.,

         I have had the opportunity to swim with whales but I have not done so.
         The larfest single bone in a whale is the lower jaw bone or mandible.
        In New England the most frequent stranding species is the long finned
    pilot whale. The most likely reason is disorientation or disease. On cape
    Cod strandings are most likely to occur in Wellfleet, during or shortly
    after a storm with a strong wind from the southwest. Pilot whales live in
    deep water with rocky sheer shores. Cape Cod waters, on the Massachusetts
    bay side are shallow , sandy, and gently sloping. When pilot whales migrate
    past in early winter the become entrapped by the geography of the area.

    Dear Maddie and peter K.,

        Yes. i think that there are a few species of whale that we do not know
    about. those whales will probably be beaked whales that live in mid oceanic
    areas. i began to look at and study whales in 1978.

    Dear Matthew G. and Georgianna,

        This is a tough one. There are several theories about breaching or
    jumping whales. One theory is that whales use the sound from a huge splash
    as a communication. Another thought is that whales may actually save energy
    when swinng fast by leaping through the air. Yet another theory is that
    some whales , humpbacks, sometimes breach to stun prey. it may be just for
    fun. Herman Melville ,author of Moby Dick ,described breaching humpbacks as
    '"the most gamesome and light-hearted of all the whales, making more gay
    foam and white water than any other of them."

    Dear Grace and Marc,

        The heart of a blue whale is quite large. The heart of a blue whale is
    equal to 0.5% of the total body weight. So a 120 ton blue whale has a heart
    that weighs 1200 pounds. the great whales have hearts weighing 0.3-0.5% of
    body mass.
        I have helped rescue a stranded southern right whale in Argentina.

    Dear Matt and Lily,
        I began seriously studying whales in 1978.My favorite species is Orcinus
    orca, the killer whale. Right whales , Bowheaads and humpbacks are the
    runners up. I was inspired to study whales when I was standing alone on the
    stern of a boat having a cup of coffee. A seventy foot finback surfaced and
    blew about 40 feet away and I was astonished that something that large was a
    living entity. Fortunately my entire education could be applied to whales.
    The principles of anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, and neurology are the
    same for all mammals. Mammals are mammals are mammals. Each species is
    simply twisted around in a different way. All you have to do is understand
    how those animals have adapted basic biological structures and systems to
    suit their particular needs.
        The largest whale that I have ever seen was a ninety five foot blue
    whale off California.

    Dear Alison , Jamie , Will,

        Yes they do. killer whales in Argentina rush onto the beach to catch
    inattentive southern fur seals. there are bottlenose dolphins in Georgia
    that beach themselves to catch fish. The fish are pushed onto sandbars when
    the dolphin pod create a small wave as they rush the sandbar.

    Whew. You folks are making me work hard.

    untiringly yours,

    Tom Ford


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