Monday, June 06, 2011

{Inspiration} Do whales smell krill?

A recent article published in Marine Mammal Science presents evidence that bowhead whales have a sense of smell, and a fairly well-developed sense of smell at that! The authors suggest that the whales may use olfaction to detect the krill on which they feed. Given that they are closely related to bowheads, it makes me wonder (again) whether or not right whales may be using their sense of smell to locate widely dispersed prey patches? Hmmm...

Olfaction and brain size in the bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) - Thewissen - 2010 - Marine Mammal Science - Wiley Online Library


"Although there are several isolated references to the olfactory anatomy of mysticetes, it is usually thought that olfaction is rudimentary in this group. We investigated the olfactory anatomy of bowhead whales and found that these whales have a cribriform plate and small, but histologically complex olfactory bulb. The olfactory bulb makes up approximately 0.13% of brain weight, unlike odontocetes where this structure is absent. We also determined that 51% of olfactory receptor genes were intact, unlike odontocetes, where this number is less than 25%. This suggests that bowheads have a sense of smell, and we speculate that they may use this to find aggregations of krill on which they feed."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

THX for sharing