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In the depths of the sea below

GeneralIn the depths of the sea below

Whales have been of great interest to human beings for a long time as have other sea mammals. Films have been written about them, documentaries on them and exploring their world but there is still so much about their lives that we don’t understand.

In one well-known star trek film the crew beam aboard two Blue Whales to take them back to help with a life or death mission. You can bet Scotty needed to get his workshop bench out to help build that holding the container. It would probably have been useful if the ship had been equipped with Boltless Shelving like the sort you can see at www.rackzone.ie/shelving/industrial-residential-shelving to store all spare items on so Scotty to find everything in an instant.

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One type of whale is that of the toothed whale.

Toothed Whales are originally descended from land mammals and have evolved a long beak on the front of the skull. This accommodates a row of even, cone-shaped teeth used for catching fish.

In dark, murky waters, the prey is searched out using a form of sonar echolocation. The apparatus for this is a chamber of fatty tissue, the bulge seen on the top of the whale’s head, which is filled with a mixture of waxes and oils. This acts as a lens to concentrate the clicks and squeaks they make, into abeam of sound that the whale can direct. Any reflected sound is picked up by a sensitive point in the tip of the jaw, and then down a channel into the whale’s ear.

Different types of echo can be identified by the whale to let it know if it has tracked down possible prey for food. Pilot and Sperm whales dive to levels in excess of 1,000 metres to catch large squid and octopus and rely solely on their sonar in these dark depths.

The biggest of the toothed species is the Sperm whale, it has a huge head that measures almost one-third of its entire body length. Seldom seen near land, it spends its life cruising the world’s oceans, mainly in the warmer climates.

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Pilot whales are also found in warm tropical waters and being a deep-sea species rarely approach land. They travel the high seas in large groups, sometimes hundreds of animals, whereas deep sheltered waters attract smaller family groups of 10 to 12. In the Northern Hemisphere, Pilot whales can be seen around the Canary Islands where the migrate to give birth.

Probably the most well known of the toothed whales is the Killer Whale or orca, which is easily identified by its large dorsal fin. They are superb hunters and can adapt to most conditions, from the icy waters of the polar regions to the hotter climates of the Equator. Sometimes found in river estuaries and other coastal regions, they are equally at home in deep water.

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