The Things You Learn

Last night was my re-certification test to be a Whale-Watch Naturalist with the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium again next year. Here are a few things I’ve learned from my classes that I thought I’d share with you:

1. Whale milk is 53% butterfat. Human milk is 2-3% fat and cow’s milk is 3.3%.
2. Nursing baby Gray Whales gain between 25 and 75 lbs a day (see #1)
3. Pinnipeds (seals and sea lions) have a baculum, also known as a penis bone. Yes, they have an actual bone in their penis. Some of you may be aware that many mammals have penis bones, but this was news to me. Here’s a place where you can order them for stirring your coffee.
4. Pinnipeds are part of the order Carnivora and are related to cats, dogs and bears.
5. Cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) are part of the superorder Ungulates (hoofed animals) which includes grazing animals like horses, cows, elephants and hippos. Unlike all other unglulates, cetaceans are the only predators in this group.
6. One of the most endangered cetaceans is the Vaquita (“little cow”) which lives in the Gulf of California. A teensy little porpoise, there may be only about a hundred of them left. They’re about 4-5 long and live at the gulf of the Colorado river and the upper Gulf of California. They are most often killed as by-catch by fishermen.

I don’t get the results of my test until next week, but I think I passed. See you on the water next month!

5 Replies to “The Things You Learn”

  1. In other news I saw what must have been 50 or so dolphins breaching on the boat ride to catalina the other month… that was really cool. I have never seen so many dolphins at once before. Is that common to have such a large amount outside the San Pedro harbor?

    Also I was reading on a .mil website about how the Navy uses dolphins, otters, whales and sea lions for swimmer detection and mine marking. It is called the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program The have a facility in San Diego.

  2. Dave, it is indeed common to see such large pods off our shores. Sometimes many pods will come together when there’s an upwelling of squid or other prey and form super-pods composed of thousands of individuals. Usually Common Dolphin (either Long-beaked or Short-beaked species).

    They’re great fun and love to visit the boats and enjoy the bow waves. I find the dolphins the best part of the whale watch trips.

  3. I’ve seen pods of 300 or 400 in the channel in the past. It’s an awesome sight, that’s for sure.

    Hey Cybele – this post makes me think of two words: Metblog fieldtrip!

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