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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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ScienceShot: Baleen Whales Use 'Ear Fat' to Hear
19 April 2012 3:45 pm
Whales use sound to communicate over entire oceans, search for food, and coordinate attacks. But just how baleen whales—a group that uses comblike projections from the roof of their mouth to catch food—heard these grunts and moans was something of a mystery. Toothed whales, including dolphins and porpoises, use lobes of fat connected to their jawbones and ears to pick up sounds. But in-depth analyses of baleen whales weren't previously possible because their sheer size made them impossible to fit into scanners such that use computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging, which analyze soft tissues. So in a new study, published online this month in The Anatomical Record, researchers focused on one of the smaller species, minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata). They found that triangular patches of fat surrounding minke whale ears (yellow patches, above) could be key to how they hear. They scanned seven minke whale heads in CT and MRI machines, created computer models of the ears and surrounding soft tissue, and dissected the whale noggins to reveal ear fat running from blubber just under the skin to the ear bones. This is similar to the arrangement found in toothed whales. The novel analysis allowed the authors to speculate that the ear fat in both toothed and baleen whales could have shared a common evolutionary origin.
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