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Lessons on Whales and Dolphins

Anare Ravula
Sunday, January 13, 2013

DID you know that whales and dolphins float on water while sleeping?

Ask expert, Doctor Cara Mitchell Miller, a representative of the Whale and Dolphins Conservation Society International based at the University of the South Pacific at the Laucala campus in Suva.

She said a whale's brain has the ability to switch to sleep mode half the time, while the other half remains alert as they stay afloat.

"To make sure that whales perform the basic functions to breathe, only one half of their brain will sleep at a time.

"The other half stays awake in case of approaching fishing vessel or ships," Dr. Cara explained.

This is the only way that they are able to get the amount of rest they need and still take care of this function that is necessary for their bodies to survive.

School children on Totoya island were fortunate to an expert like Dr. Cara visit and educate them on facts about dolphins and whales.

This was made possible when she made a trip to the island to try and salvage the trapped whale on a lagoon situated at the bottom of Totoya bay.

This did not only provide valuable information to the school children of Dravuwalu, Ketei and Tovu, but to the teachers and some villagers as a whole.

"Whales are one of the most amazing creatures that live in our planet and they inhabit all oceans of the world," she said.

The children were showed posters with picture facts of cetaceans, their behaivours, habits and threats, standings awareness and species identifications.

It is said that whales belong to the order cetacea, which means that they are mammals fully adapted to aquatic life.

Like all cetaceans, including dolphins and porpoises, whales are descendants of land-living animals which returned to water after living millions of years on land.

Most whales can grow to be extremely large. In fact, the Blue Whale is considered to be the largest animal in the world.

"I noticed that most of you had gone out to the lagoon to have a closer look at the trapped humpback whale," she told them.

Dr. Cara said that whales depend entirely on their flippers and dorsal fins to help them move in the water and to stay balanced.

Whales also sing.

"Whales in Fij sing a different type of song from whales in Tonga or other parts of the pacific," the expert revealed.

She also said that a typical whale song can last up to 30 minutes.

According to a theory developed in the University of New York, whales can locate other whales by analyzing the distortion of the song through water.

Whale singing is usually related to blue whales and humpback whales, because while other toothed whales produce some vocalizations they do not sing as the baleen whales mentioned above do.

Whale Species

Blue Whale

Gray Whale

Bowhead Whale

Fin Whale

Humpback Whale

Minke Whale

Narwhal Whale

Pilot Whale

Right Whale

Sperm Whale

Beluga Whale

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