ODONTOCETES! The next in my series of diverse marine silhouettes features several species of toothed whale. Read my blog post to see why I made the species choices I did.

Prints, shirts, mugs, and phone cases are available!

26-million-year-old fossil ear reveals the origin of dolphin hearing and communication
Scientists have known for decades that modern-day dolphins are some of the most intelligent and social animals on earth. Demonstrating complex behaviour and communication dolphins remind us of ourselves while living in a radically different environment.
Big oil vs. big whale: Will pipeline trump iconic orcas?
In approving plans to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline, the National Energy Board accepted "significant adverse effects" on the southern resident killer whale population. But experts say the future of the iconic B.C. orca won't be so casually dismissed.

The southern resident Orcas. One of the most iconic and endangered populations of Orca could be pushed over the brink by the Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain pipeline project. It’s time that Trudeau says no to this reckless proposal. 

While trying to wrap my head around a billion other projects, I felt urged to loosen up a bit and painted this on a 12 x 24 inch canvas. It’s a revisit to an old digital piece I did in 2009, but I’d always liked the composition and wanted to explore it using traditional media. There are so many gorgeous photos, paintings and illustrations of orcas breaching, but I always find myself thinking about the view from under the water. I love how water behaves around marine animals at the surface.


Repeat after me: 

Blackfish is not about making SeaWorld trainers look bad.

Blackfish is not about making SeaWorld trainers look bad.

Blackfish is not about making SeaWorld trainers look bad.

There’s no denying that the trainers love the whales. We get that they’re in it for the animals, not the money. We’re not disputing that. That’s not what the film is about. So let’s bring the debate back to the whales, not the trainers, please. It doesn’t matter if the trainers have good intentions, or care for the whales with all of their hearts, when the whales are still living in a substandard captive environment. 

The film is not challenging how much the trainers love the orcas. It is challenging the actual conditions the orcas are living in.

Echolocation allows odontocetes to pursue agile prey, even in dark or murky waters. Porpoises and dolphins produce ultrasonic clicks by forcing air between the phonic lips in their nasal passages. The lips open and close, which causes the nearby tissue to vibrate and create sound waves. These bounce off the bony cribriform plate at the front of the skull and are then focused into a beam by the melon, which the cetacean aims at the prey. Dolphins use the melon, an oily lump of tissue behind the forehead, to focus their sound waves into a beam. Echoes returning from an animal or object are transferred through oil filled sinuses in the lower mandible to the left ear. Sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) have a different anatomy for producing echolocation clicks. The left nasal passage is used for breathing, while the right is for sound production. Sound waves pass through an oil-filled spermaceti organ, rebound off an air sac at the rear of the head, and are focused into a beam of sound through many fatty lenses. Experiments with bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) show that they can identify submerged objects by size, shape, composition, and many other factors. This allows then to learn the echo signatures of their preferred prey species. Dolphins also make an array of low frequency sounds to communicate with each other, like whistles and squeaks. Each dolphin has a signature whistle. The picture shows a long beaked common dolphin (Delphinus capensis) hunting fish during the sardine run. Photo source here.


I went through the photos from the False Killer Whale sighting (back in March), dug up the raw files and did some touch ups. I’ve looked at that batch of photos so often that I think I’ll be able to recognize individual whales if I ever see them again. This particular pod is known to venture into Orange County, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara waters in the spring time. 

I love these guys so much!!

Animals I Am Genuinely Afraid Of (As A Biologist)
  1. Ducks. Ballistic 15cm-long penises and murder-banging of rivals. Also jagged beaks and a sense of entitlement.
  2. Dolphins. Attempted murder of unwilling females during mating. Drowning and pointless murder of smaller odontocetes and anything else they happen upon when the mood strikes them. Creepy serial killer smiles.
  3. Chimpanzees. Ruthlessly take out other groups in all-out wars. Can rip your face off with very little effort. 
  4. Eagles. Giant flying dinosaurs with knives on several appendages. Can also rip your face off. 
  5. Swans. Scary and angry and have no time for your shit. Could probably rip your face off after they are done snapping your arms in half with their wings. 
  6. Humboldt squid. You need real actual knight armor to dive with them. ARMOR. OR ELSE YOU DIE.
  7. Kangaroos. Dropkick you in the face and periodically murder dogs. Secretly have it in for placentals. 
  8. Large flightless birds. NO (but also yes)
  9. Barracudas. For no other reason than I find them terrifying
  10. Parasitic anything. (except for you, Stercorarius parasiticus) Do I really need an explanation for this they are gross and horrifying and no.

This list could go on forever but I am ending it here for sanity’s sake