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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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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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