look I love whales but baleen plates are the worst thing ever. Like I know they’re functional but I hate looking at them.
hurr hurr I’m a baleen whale I’m gonna evolve a fucking hairbrush in my mouth instead of having teeth like a normal person so I can eat a bunch of the smallest animals in the fucking world at once despite being the largest thing alive
“"It’s like a squeaky sound, and some of them are really like grunting sounds,“ Videsen says. What’s more, the sounds are very quiet — like the baby humpback is whispering so that it won’t get overheard by something dangerous lurking nearby.”
LARGEST BALEEN WHALE MASS STRANDING IN SOUTHERN CHILE RELATED TO TOXIC ALGAL BLOOM
In March 2015, by far the largest reported mass mortality of baleen whales took place in a gulf in Southern Chile. At that moment, researchers discovered 367 dead whales, from the sector of Gulf of Penas and Puerto Natales, in Magallanes region.
In May the scientific journal PeerJ published the final study on the mass stranding event, most of them sei whale (Balaenoptera boreal), whale species which is endangered. According to the research, led by Vreni Häussermann, the event was related to the proliferation of toxic algae during the El Niño phenomenon.
While large mass mortality events are well known for toothed whales, they have been rare in baleen whales due to their less gregarious behavior. Although in most cases the cause of mortality has not been conclusively identified, some baleen whale mortality events have been linked to bio-oceanographic conditions
According to the study if the frequency and magnitude of
mass mortality events
increase due to climate change this would have a significant impact on the local population and threaten the recovery of this endangered species, which in the Southern Hemisphere was reduced by whaling from about 100,000 to 24,000 individuals by 1980.
Häussermann et al. 2017. Largest baleen whale mass mortality during strong El Niño event is likely related to harmful toxic algal bloom. PeerJ
The discovery of a whale fossil dating back to 36.4 million years ago has filled in a gaping hole in the evolution of baleen whales, a group that includes humpbacks (Megaptera novaeangliae) and blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus). The creature, named Mystacodon selenensis, is the oldest baleen-whale relative yet found.
The skeleton displays traits that place it firmly as the first baleen-whale relative known to emerge after an ancient group of whale ancestors called basilosaurids split into two: one branch led to the toothed whales, which include sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) and dolphins, and the other to baleen whales. Researchers reported their findings on 11 May in Current Biology1.
“This is the fossil that we’ve been waiting for,” says Nick Pyenson, a palaeontologist at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC. Whale fossils from this time period can answer a lot of questions that researchers have about the origins of living whale lineages, he says. They include the appearance of the earliest baleen whale ancestors.
Did you know dolphins are actually toothed whales?
All whales are generally divided into two groups, baleen whales and toothed whales, with the latter category including dolphins and porpoises. Common dolphins like this one can be spotted in several national marine sanctuaries, including Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, where this one was photographed.
Does the word "shellfish" annoy you since shellfish aren't fish? Does it bother you when people call orcas "killer whales" when they're dolphins? Because it bothers me even though I only have a high school level understanding of Biology I wanted to know if it was just me...
Hmm I think I used to, but now not so much, and I’ll tell you why.
Common or colloquial names vary so much within and between localities and languages that we shouldn’t expect the same kind of stringency we hold to real scientific names and groupings. The point of a name is to convey information, and in certain contexts an informal and not necessarily biologically accurate common name is suitable to convey relevant information to a wide group of people within a certain locality. Bird common names are particularly bad, for example an american blackbird is not closely related to the eurasian blackbird at all, and in addition there are about 26 (not necessarily related) species called blackbirds found in the Americas. However, if you are sitting in your garden in the UK and you hear a blackbird, you don’t need to differentiate between that and the 26 American birds to know that what you are hearing is Turdus merula. Common names are perfectly acceptable in the right context.
Now, shellfish is a handy and historically well established culinary term for basically any edible marine invertebrate. I don’t think it would be necessary to have to start saying bivalve chowder, linguine with marine invertebrates, or decapod tempura just for the sake of scientific accuracy. The term is specific to English too - in latin based languages such as French, Spanish, and Italian etc., the same group of animals are referred to under the umbrella term of “Fruits of the Sea”. We know they are not fruits, and I’m sure (or I at least hope) that most people know that “shellfish” are not actually fish, however, as the title of my favourite podcast goes, there’s No Such Thing As A Fish - this is because the group of animals that we would call fish, is a paraphyletic group- which in terms of biological semantics, doesn’t exist.
Basically, a paraphyletic group is a group of organisms including the latest common ancestor, but not including all descendants. Below in yellow are the groups that we would typically refer to as “fish”, however this excludes amphibians, and other land vertebrates etc., which are nested in the fish family tree. In fact, humans are more closely related to ray finned fish (such as salmon etc.) than ray finned fish are to sharks, yet the term fish removes this information.
The proper, monophyletic groupings (ancestor and all descendants), which retains such information are displayed below for contrast, but you don’t need to say that you are going Osteichthyes-ing when you are going on a fishing trip.
We basically use the word fish to refer to non air-breathing marine vertebrates with that share general habitats and ecologies, which is a useful word to have. For example don’t need to have a different, scientifically accurate term for overfishing for each fishy group, that would weaken the meaning of terminology for the action of overfishing, and make conservation policy and public outreach more difficult. Overfishing as a word is easy to understand, and in this context, it gets the job done, whether you are a biologist, a policy maker, a fisherman, or an average joe.
SO scientifically, even the word fish to begin with is problematic! But such semantics aren’t necessary for everyday life, and thus the word fish still has value. It’s widespread usage is simply historical leftover from when the word fish basically meant anything living in the sea (shellfish, starfish, jellyfish) - even the word dolphin comes from the latin for fish with a womb, which leads me onto your next example…
And guess what, there’s no such thing as a dolphin - yes, it is yet again another paraphyletic group. The common term dolphin excludes porpoises and other small toothed whales which are nested within classical dolphin groups, i.e. the superfamily, Delphinoidea.
But, like fish, dolphin is still a handy term to refer to a specific type of cetacean, so it’s not going to stop being used.
The important thing to remember is that all dolphins are whales. There are two major sub orders within Cetacea, the Mysticeti, or baleen whales such as humpback, blue, grey, minke etc. - i.e what we would typically think of as whales. However, there are also the Odontoceti, the toothed whales, which includes sperm whales, beaked whales, river dolphins, oceanic dolphins, porpoises, beluga whales, and narwhals. If the term whale is understood not to include dolphins then it becomes a paraphyletic group. Even though an Orca is part of the oceanic Dolphin family Delphinidae (which also includes bottle nosed dolphins, common dolphins etc.), it is still technically a whale. ADDITIONALLY the name killer whale may be due to a mistranslation of their 18th century Spanish name, asesina-ballenas which literally translates as whale killer as indeed, Orcas will hunt baleen whales.
Anyway the point is, at the end of the day, if the right information is conveyed by a common or informal name within the context of day to day life, scientific semantics are unnecessary. Lol, following that logic to the extreme would mean that the name seahorse is wrong. Of course it would be cool if people knew more about cetacean taxonomy, or took an interest in marine invertebrates, but I don’t think that enforcing correct nomenclature is central to doing that. Most of the time these terms are simply just the name for a thing, disassociated from any greater meaning - I would still use the words shellfish in a restaurant, or the word starfish or jellyfish etc. and I am currently studying marine invertebrates!
And hey, then next time those terms come up in conversation you could always use that opportunity to crack open a few fun facts about how orcas are part of the dolphin family, and that all dolphins are whales, or that the prawn and clam on your plate are not related to each other, or to that can of tuna in your cupboard.
friend orca is dolphin- but friend dolphin is whale!
really proper word is “cetacean.” basically goes like this.
here we have big famly. lotta cousins n friends! but whale famly not actually “family” when talking taxonomy! whale famly bigger than taxonomic family!
now you see that word “order” up there? basic phylogeny goes Kingdom>Phylum>Class>Order>Family>Genus>Species. help to remember: king phillip came over from germany swimming! (actually, cetacea is an infraorder- whale friends in order artiodactyla- but that little confusing. important idea is that you see that friend whale and friend dolphin and friend porpoise all in same group!)
now some whales, they have the baleen. but other whales? they have ‘em the teef. they allll a group call Odontoceti, which mean “tooth whale.” word dolphin means “whale in taxonomic family Delphinidae.” still whale! whale not one family, whale one order. to be whale, need be in cetacea, so all dolphin technically whale, but not all whale technically dolphin. hope makes sense!
(I mean, if it doesn’t make sense I can go into more detail in actual grammatical sense, but this was fun.)
I have written before about the mystery and romance of the Arctic and the Bowhead’s place in that in a previous post.
A few days ago I finally had an opportunity to see them in the Arctic archipelago of Franz Josef Land. The Barents Sea population, of which these individuals are a part, is estimated at tens to hundreds so we felt doubly blessed to see more than a dozen of them.
While we saw some mature adults from a distance, all of those that swam close to the ship when we slowed down appeared to be young, lacking the white lower jaw.
I feel genuinely privileged to have seen these animals. To me they are an emblem of the Arctic, being the most ice-adapted of any any whale and playing such a large part in human survival and history.
We swam out too far Out of fear of being The first to turn around Now we’re stuck here Gripped high In a rip tide The way timorous fists of brides Bunch at posies Broken petals careening, posing For the pictures As they waft around ankles Adrift of wobbly knees Well, Now we sure have cold feet
Will our bodies drift the same? Lilting around a whale’s crown Floating up, then down To the bottom of the sea While cetacea suck Our bone’s salts That strengthen their baleen The sea quench so arresting Canopic, natron jars brimming, brining That even if immortality’s out of reach Our intertwining bodies Incorruptible now Will forever stand a testament To bleak heart’s last beseech