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In place of teeth to chew and jaws to chomp, some whales have developed Baleen to feed. Baleen plates are made of keratin and contribute to a sieve-resembling feeding system. Baleen whales can take in and filter up to 170,000 cubic metres, consuming up to 16 tonnes of plankton per day.
To many, it is surprising to discover that many ocean creatures possess beaks. In addition to marine birds, all turtles develop beaks for protection and feeding purposes. Likewise, all octopuses, squid, parrotfish, pufferfish, and cuttlefish have beaked dental structures.
Blowholes are placed far back on a dolphin's or whale's skull, connected to the trachea, to facilitate more efficient breathing. After their extensive breath holds, whales and dolphins use their blowholes to dislodge the air. Hence, the charismatic 'blows'.
The Caudal fin is the only fin attached to the vertebral column in fish and shark species. The caudal fin promotes side-to-side swimming manoeuvres as opposed to the up-and-down motion that propels dolphins through the sea.
A male shark's reproductive organs are essentially its pelvic fins that have been modified and elongated. They are external features and resemble two cucumber-like appendages. In addition to sharks, male rays, skates, and insects also have claspers.
The fin on the back of marine mammals and fish is called a Dorsal Fin. Although the 'drag' can compromise speed, dorsal fins aid in swimming equilibrium, direction, and stability. Thus, the evolutionary benefits certainly outweigh the costs.
Also called eye spots, the big white blotches surrounding the Orca eyes are unique, facilitating individual identification. However, some postulate that the patch evolved to hide the actual eye and deceive prey, who regularly attack predator eyes as a defence mechanism.
Marine species' eyes are specially adapted to ensure clear sight in murky seas and blackish depths. For instance, deep sea fish use their eye 'rods' (where their cones are idle) that are acutely sensitive to red light. Alternatively, mantis shrimps have up to 16 visual pigments (humans have 3).
Without fins, fish and marine mammals could not boost and propel themselves through the sea. Fish fins also aid reproduction and courtship demonstrations, aggressive displays, hunting and defence, body temperature regulation, and, in some species, 'walking' across the sea floor.
Turtles, penguins, pinnipeds (walrus, seals, and sea lions), cetaceans (whales and dolphins), and sirenians (dugongs and manatees) all have flippers. Like fins, flippers help marine animals with direction and agile movement through the ocean.
Also known as pharyngeal slits, the openings to the gills are critical to cartilaginous fish anatomy. Sharks, skates, and rays have 5-7 gill slits to regulate respiration, feeding, and water filtration.
Melons are the prominent forehead structure characteristic of dolphins and toothed whales. The structure is composed of fat and adipose tissue and plays a vital role in acoustic behaviours. For instance, the emission of sound waves, echolocation, and sound recognition.
Nares refer to the external openings on a shark or fish snout. Like human nostrils, two nares help fishes and sharks smell, detect chemicals, and sense the hormones of other species, mates, and potential predators.
Pectoral fins are the fins located on the sides of the body, usually near the gills. Pectoral fins primarily assist in balance, agility, completing sudden movements, coming to a quick halt, and displaying communicative behaviours.
Many animals and plants comprise Penduncles, which essentially translates to 'stem'. In ocean contexts, a whale's caudal peduncle connects the tail to the body and is one of the strongest muscles in the animal kingdom. Other marine species with peduncle structures include mackerels, tunas, and bonitos.
The purpose and function of a pelvic fin are highly dependent on species. For example, in some fishes, pelvic fins are elongated as part of the reproductive organs, while others use their pelvic fins for swimming, steering, braking, or walking the ocean floor.
The various mating and birthing processes can arguably be some of the most intriguing elements of marine species biology, as reproduction varies immensely. For instance, there is broadcast spawning, eggs hatching internally and externally, live birth, land birth, freshwater birth, budding, asexual reproduction etc.
The rostrum is a beak-like structure that is an extension of the cranium. Crustaceans and cetaceans have rostrums in addition to some insects and other fish species. The rostrum is a beneficial structure owing to its tendency to protect, help hunt, and overcome water resistance.
The tail is the primary source of power when it comes to propelling a dolphin forward. Their bodies taper into the tail stock (peduncle), which has flattened sides, and the horizontal flukes. The two flukes of the dolphin's tail are held rigid not by bones but by tendons and fibrous tissue.
The grapefruit-sized 'bumps' on a whale's pectoral fins and head are individual hair follicles called Tubercles. Tubercles aid in drag reduction and support the whales' graceful and acrobatic manoeuvres.
Ventral grooves (or pleats) are accordion-like features atop baleen whales' throats. The grooves expand and condense, granting the whale to inhale bizarre amounts of seawater to filter feed.
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