Subject: Many whale questions- assorted species

Courtney Stirling Casey (stirling@gsosun1.gso.uri.edu)
Thu, 6 Nov 1997 08:59:05 -0500 (EST)

Hi Sue,
	I am going to answer all of the questions in capital letters,
directly under the question.  I have touched lightly on many scientific
theories.  Please let me know if the answers are not clear or you wish
more information.  I will get back to you as soon as possible with the
answers.  Good luck.

Courtney

> Date: Wed, 5 Nov 1997 03:26:50 -0500
> From: Sue Shirley <sshirley@dcd.pvt.k12.ma.us>
> To: stirling@gsosun1.gso.uri.edu
> Subject: whales 
> 
> Courtney, 
> 
> The following questions are from my 5th grade scientists who are
> happily studying about whales.  Thank you in advance for your answers
> which we are looking forward to getting. 
> 
> Sue Shirley 
> Dedham Country Day School 
> Dedham, MA 
> 
> >From Justin and Bobby: Why are Beluga whales considered whales?
SPECIES ARE SEPARATED INTO TAXONOMIC GROUPS BASED UPON SIMILAR
CHARACTERISTICS - MORPHOLOGY, LIFE HISTORY AND GENETIC SIMILARITY.  BELUGA
WHALES ARE INCLUDED IN THE MARINE MAMMAL GROUP BEACAUSE THEY BREATHE AIR,
GIVE BIRTH TO LIVE YOUNG, NURSE THEIR YOUNG, AND HAVE VERY SIMILAR BODY
FORM TO OTHER WHALES.  GRANTED THEY LOOK DIFFERENT (WHITE), BUT OTHER THAN 
THE COLOR OF THE SKIN, THEY ARE QUITE SIMILAR TO OTHER WHALES

> >From Adam, Rob and Eric: How big was the biggest blue whale ever seen?
A FEW PEOPLE WOULD MAINTAIN THAT 110 FT IS THE LARGEST BLUE WHALE EVER
FOUND.  HOWEVER, NOT ALL SCIENTISTS AGREE AND MOST BELIEVE THAT A 103 FT
FEMALE IS THE LARGEST. 
 
>From Kaitlinn: What effect does pollution have on the evolution of >
whales?
EVOLUTION IS A COMPLICATED PROCESS THAT ACTS (OR EXERTS IS EFFECTS) AT THE
POPULATION LEVEL, NOT THE INDIVIDUAL LEVEL.  hOWEVER, POPULATIONS ARE MADE
UP OF INDIVIDUALS, SO LET'S SPECULATE AS THE THE IMPACT OF POLLUTION ON
INDIVIDUAL EVOLUTION.  EVOLUTION, SIMPLY PUT, IS THE PROCESS BY WHICH
CHARACTERISTICS - LIFE HISTORY STRATEGIES, MORPHOLOGICAL ADAPTATIONS ARE
CREATED THROUGH GENETIC PROCESSES AND GIVE THAT INDIVIDUAL A GREATER
CHANCE
OF SURVIVING AND HAVING YOUNG THAT SURVIVE.  SO, IF POLLUTION IN SOME WAY
IMPACTS AN INDIVIDUALS ABILITY TO HAVE LOTS OF BABIES THAT SURVIVE, THEN
THAT WOULD BE ONE WAY POLLUTION WOULD EFFECT WHALES.  ANOTHER, BETTER WAY,
TO LOOK AT IT IS IF A CERTAIN POPULATION WAS MORE SEVERELY IMPACTED BY
POLLUTION THAN ANOTHER.  THEN, THIS IMPACTED POPULATION WOULD (MOST
LIKELY) BE LESS "FIT" OR ABLE TO HAVE LOTS OF SURVIVING BABIES.

> Liz, Torie, Sam and Toby:
How well do whales see? How do whales hear > and where are their ears?
WHALES USE ECHOLOCATION FOR MANY PURPOSES.  ECHOLOCATION ALLOWS WHALES TO
BOUNCE SOUND OFF OF OBJECTS IN THE OCEAN AND TO INTERPRET THE REBOUNDING
OF THE SOUND, AND IT'S SUBSEQUENT DISTORTION.  THIS IS ONE WAY WHALES CAN
LOCATE FOOD OR OBSTACLES IN THE OCEAN.  SO, ECHOLOCATION SERVES AS THE
EYES FOR WHALES AS OURS DO FOR US.  WHALES HAVE EYES, BUT THEY ARE NOT AS
USEFUL AS ECHOLOCATION IS FOR LEARNING ABOUT THEIR ENVIRONMENT BECAUSE OF
THE TURBIDITY (CLOUDINESS) OF THE OCEAN.

> >From Kaitlinn, Maddy, and Natalie: What whale do you see most often on
> whale watch vessels?
IT DEPENDS ON WHERE YOU GO ON YOUR WHALE WATCH.  HOWEVER, SINCE YOU LIVE
NEAR BOSTON I WILL ANSWER THE QUESTION IN TERMS OF WHAT YOU WOULD FIND IN
THE GULF OF MAINE REGION.  IT IS VERY LIKELY THAT YOU WOULD SEE MINKE
WHALES, FINBACK WHALES, HUMPBACK WHALES, AND POSSIBLY ATLANTIC WHITESIDED
DOLPHINS...IF YOU WERE REALLY LUCKY AND IN THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT
TIME YOU MIGHT ALSO SEE A RIGHT WHALE

> >From Melissa and Nina: Has human contact had any affect on whales such
> as even a slight hint of domestication?
I THINK THAT WHEN ANY ANIMAL SPECIES INTERACTS WITH HUMANS THEY ARE
IMPACTED.  WHALES AND HUMANS HAVE INTERACTED FOR HUNDREDS OF YEARS AND
THE WHALING INDUSTRY CERTAINLY IMPACTED MANY WHALES SPECIES.  MORE
RECENTLY, WHALES AND HUMANS HAVE INTERACTED THROUGH WHALE WATCHING AND
CETACEAN RESEARCH, WHICH HAS BEEN A MORE POSITIVE INTERACTION.  I DO NOT
THINK THAT ANY HUMAN-WHALE INTERACTION HAS SERVED TO DOMESTICATE WHALES,
EXCEPT IN THE CASE OF WILD-CAUGHT ANIMALS THAT ARE MAINTAINED IN
CAPTIVITY.

> >From Reggie and Neil: Do whales get ear infections? Why don't whales
> sink then they blow out 90% of their air when exhaling?  How many
> molecules in a Humpback whale?
wHALES DO NOT SINK WHEN THEY BLOW OUT THEIR AIR BECAUSE THEY HAVE SO MUCH
BLUBBER ON THEM THAT THEY ARE POSITIVELY BUOYANT - MEANING THEY WILL
FLOAT.  ALSO, THE BONES OF WHALES ARE DIFFERNT FROM OURS - THEY ARE NOT AS
DENSE AND THEREFORE DO NOT WEIGH THE WHALES DOWN IN THE WATER.  i DO NOT
KNOW THAT ANYONE HAS INVESTIGATED EAR INFECTIONS IN WHALES.  THOUGH, THE
MORE WE KNOW ABOUT WHALES THE MORE WE ARE FINDING THAT THEY GET SIMILAR
DISEASES TO MANY OTHER ANIMALS.  SO, IF SOMEONE WERE TO LOOK AT THIS MY
GUESS IS THAT OCCASIONALLY, WHALES HAVE EAR PROBLEMS.

sO, i AM GOING TO GIVE YOU THE SET-UP AND THEN YOU CAN DO THE MATHEMATICS
TO FIGURE OUT HOW MANY MOLECULES IN A HUMPBACK WHALE.  BECAUSE WE DO NOT
KNOW EXACTLY WHAT WHALES ARE MADE OF, LET'S ASSUME THEY ARE ALL
WATER(WHICH IS PROBABLY NOT SO FAR OFF!).  AND, LET'S ASSUME THAT THE
AVERAGE WHALE WEIGHS 70,000 POUNDS.  sO, NOW FIND OUT HOW MANY GRAMS IN A
POUND AND CALCULATE HOW MANY GRAMS IN 70,000 POUNDS.  REMEMBER, WE ASSUMED
THAT THE WHALE WAS MADE UP OF WATER , H2O - WHICH HAS A MOLECULAR WEIGHT
OF 20. SO, DIVIDE THE NUMBER OF GRAMS IN 70, 000 POUNDS, BY 20 AND THIS
WILL GIVE YOU THE NUMBER OF MOLECULES.  nOW, MULTIPLY THE NUMBER OF
MOLECULES BY AVAGADRO'S NUMBER (WHICH TELLS US THE NUMBER OF MOLECULES/PER
MOLE OF ANYTHING) - 6.0*10(-23)...THAT IS 6.0 TIMES 10 TO THE NEGATIVE 23
POWER.  tHEN, YOU WILL HAVE THE NUMBER OF MOLECULES.  wRITE BACK AND TELL
ME WHAT YOU GOT FOR AN ANSWER AND WE CAN SEE IF WE WERE BOTH RIGHT!!!

 > >From
Michael K.: How many brain cells does a fin whale have?
I HAVE NO IDEA HOW MANY BRAIN CELLS A FIN WHALE HAS - LOTS AND LOTS.  ONE
WAY TO COMPARE BRAIN SIZE IS TO NORMALIZE, OR DIVIDE IT BY, BODY WEIGHT.
iF ONE DOES THIS FOR MANY SPECIES ONE LEARNS THAT MARINE MAMMALS HAVE LOTS
OF BRAIN IN RELATION TO BODY MASS.  MANY MARINE MAMMALOGISTS BELIEVE THAT
THIS IS INDICATIVE OF INTELLIGENCE AND A COMPLEX SOCIAL COMMUNICATION.
 
> >From Anna and Danielle: Would ther be deformaties if a whale mated with
> a sibling?  Would the effect be the same as a human?
i DO NOT KNOW IF GENETIC DEFORMATIES WOULD RESULT, AS THE GENENTIC POOL
IN CETACEAN SPECIES HAS NOT BEEN LIMITED ENOUGH TO INVESTIGATE.  HOWEVER,
WHEN POPULATIONS GET REALLY SMALL AND THE GENE POOL BECOMES LIMITED THE
ABILITY OF THE POPULATION AS A WHOLE TO RESPOND TO ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE,
PREY CHANGES, OR POLLUTION IMPACTS IS LESSENED.  


 >From
Carry and Heather: What effect does toxic water have on pregnant > whales?
THAT IS A GREAT QUESTION BUT DIFFICULT TO ANSWER.  NO ONE HAS EVER
PURPOSEFULLY EXPOSED A PREGNANT WHALE TO TOXINS AND THEN MESURED THE
EFFECT ON THE CALF OR MOTHER.  HOWEVER, SOME SCIENTISTS IN NORWAY HAVE FED
SEALS  FISH WITH CONTAMINANTS INSIDE OF THEM, AND THEN INVESTIGATED THE
IMPACT ON THE FEMALE SEALS (NOT NECESSARILY PREGNANT).  WHAT THEY HAVE
FOUND IS WHEN SEALS EAT FOOD LADEN WITH TOXINS THAT THE REPRODUCTIVE
SYSTEM OF THE FEMALES IS DRAMATICALLY IMPACTED.  OFTEN TIMES THEY FOUND
MALFORMATIONS IN THE UTERINE TRACT, AMONG OTHER TISSUE LEVEL PROBLEMS.   

> >From Michael and Sean: When whales moved from land into water millions
> of years ago how did they form all the different species of whales?
WHALE SPECIATION (THE PROCESS BY WHICH AN ANCESTRAL, OR OLD, SPECIES
DIVERGES INTO MANY MORE SPECIES) IS CAUSED BY THE SAME FORCES THAT MADE
DIFFERENT HORSE SPECIES LOOK DIFFERENT...OR DIFFERENT BIRDS SPECIES LOOK
SO RADICALLY DIFFERENT.  ANY GIVEN ENVIRONMENT IS LIMITED IN FOOD AND
SPACE - TWO THINGS THAT SPECIES REQUIRE.  SO, WHEN FOOD, GRASS FOR EXAMPLE
BECOMES LIMITED ONE HORSE SPECIES WILL LEARN TO EAT SHHRUBS.  BECAUSE IT
EAATS SHRUBS IT'S JAW MUSCLES WILL HAVE TO CHANGE, AND THUS THE SHAPE OF
IT'S JAW BONE WILL CHANGE - THEN OVER TIME THE HEAD OF THIS HORSE WILL
LOOK DIFFERENT FROM THE HORSE IT ORIGINATED FROM - SPECIATION.  THIS SAME
PROCESS WORKS IN WHALES.  A LONG TIME AGO FOOD OR SPACE BECAME LIMITING
AND IN ORDER TO SURVIVE SOME SPECIES HAD TO BEGIN EATING DIFFERENT THINGS
OR SWIMMING IN DIFFERNT WATER WHERE FEWER WHALES WERE.  GIVEN ENOUGH TIME,
HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF YEARS, THESE SPECIES DIVERGED AND TOOK ON
DIFFERNT SHAPES AND FORMS.
  
 >From David: Why do Orca whale's dorsal fins fold in captivity as in
> "Free Willy"?
THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF DISCCUSSION RECENTLY ABOUT FOLDING IN ORCA DORSAL
FINS. A SEAWORLD INFORMATIONAL VIDEO SUGGESTS THAT EACH WHALE IN UNIQUE.
SOME HAVE FOLDED DORSAL FINS AND OTHERS DO NOT.  THEY ALSO SUGGEST THAT
NUTRTION STATE, HEALTH AND MOOD HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH FOLDING IN ORCA
DORSAL FINS. >