Subject: Whale nerves and sensitive skin

Martine Berube (
Thu, 21 May 1998 14:33:34 +0200 (MET DST)

Dear Class,
Yes whales have sensitive skin. For your information here are two references
with a short abstract on the subject.

Ridgway, S. H., and D. A. Carder. 1990. Tactile Sensitivity, Somatosensory
Responses, Skin Vibrations, and the Skin Surface Ridges of the Bottlenosed
Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus). In: Sensory Abilities of Cetaceans, eds. J. A.
Thomas and R. A. Kastelein, Plenum Press, New York, pp. 163-179. 

    The dolphin's skin sensitivity was studied through the use of
electrophysiological techniques. A map of skin sensitivity is presented and
skin anatomy is discussed with special consideration of the cutaneous ridges
and muscle underlying the skin. 

Shoemaker, P. A. and S. H. Ridgway. 1991. Cutaneous Ridges in Odontocetes.
In: Marine MammaE Science 7(1):66-74. 

    The authors took surface impressions of dolphin skin to quantify the
tiny cutaneous ridges that run circumferentially around the body from head
to dorsal fin. They suggest that the ridges may have some function in the
sense of touch and in the hydrodynamic characteristics of the animal. 

At 10.19 AM 12-05-1998 -0700, you wrote:
>Hi, my sixth grade class in Rathdrum, Idaho would like to know if
>whales can feel it when they are tagged for research purposes.  In
>other words do they have nerves in their outer layer of skin?  Please
>reply to gailz98 in Yahoo Mail.  Thank you.
>Get your free address at
Martine Berube
Unit of Evolutionary Genetics
Department of Molecular Biology
Free University of Brussels (ULB)
CP 244
Bld du Triomphe
B-1050 Brussels, Belgium
Tel: +32 2 650 5427
Fax: +32 2 650 5421