Subject: Re: why whales?

Tom Ford (tjfketos@devo.ultranet.com)
Tue, 10 Dec 96 22:37:43 -0500

>why does the world need whales?

    Dear Wayne,

        This question has a philosophical flavor to it. I suppose you 
have to define "need". There appear to be two types of need, physical and 
spiritual.  Whales would not exist if there was not a physical role in 
the ecosystem. Whales are exquisitely adapted to fill ecological niches. 
They help maintain a balance among smaller organisms in a complex web 
that we are only beginning to understand. It has recently been postulated 
that dead whales may help benthic organisms populate the abyssal areas by 
providing sustenance. Some thermal vent organisms may actually spread 
from place to place by utilizing these organic oases.

        Then there are spiritual or cultural needs that whales fufill. 
Whales have inspired legends and artwork for a long time. Culturally 
there are Eskimo peoples that define their tribal identities in terms of 
being the people that sought after and shared the whales. Other Native 
Americans (Tlingit and Haida) have long regarded whales such as the 
killer whale as clan totemic symbols and spiritual messengers. 

         If whales did not exist then perhaps our imaginations would have 
to create them.

                                                 Dr. Tom Ford