Featured Image Credit: Ted Cranford
By Sarah Sharkey
Scientists recently used an unconventional approach to learn more about the internal anatomy of a whale.
When an 11-foot Minke whale calf beached itself and unfortunately died, the scientists decided that they couldn’t let this young whale’s death be in vain. They transported the body to an industrial CT scan machine that is usually reserved for rocket science use only.
The scan resulted in a model that allowed scientists to understand how the whale hears the world around them. The technique they used was called as finite element modelling (FEM).
Based on the super computer’s output, Minke whales hear best from overhead sounds, which suggests that the whales possess directional hearing. Additionally, the whales appear to be very sensitive to high frequency sounds which was unexpected. In fact, that sensitivity is the exact opposite of the understanding of how sensitive fin whales are to high frequencies.
The scientists think that this difference may stem from the need to hear killer whales better. Killer whales are the primary predator of Minke whales. It is hoped that this research can help scientists better understand how shipping noises will affect whales. As shipping traffic increases worldwide, information on how it affects whales will help conservationists plan for the future.
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