The animal planet is not only enormous but versatile in the true sense, equipped with millions of species, mostly unknown to common people. But the biologist and neurologists are continuously searching to uncover new species, new animal behaviors, and sciences associated with those. In this article, I’ll introduce 3 such interesting facts about animal world with their scientific explanations.
So, let’s explore.
DOLPHINS CAN ‘SEE’ THE FOETUS OF PREGNANT WOMEN
Dolphins are listed among the most interesting animals on earth that mankind can cross thousands of miles to follows them, exploring their strange behaviors. The ability to detect the foetus of a pregnant woman is one such extraordinary behavior that is owned by dolphins only; let’s explore the science behind it.
The eyesight of dolphins is good. But eyes are not responsible for the interesting fact that dolphins can detect a foetus of a pregnant woman or other dolphins. Rather it is one of the evolutionary processes called echolocation (for related research paper visit here).
Dolphins are mammals that live in water. In a dark depth of water or in opaque turbid water they are able to determine the shape, size, speed, distance, direction of travel, and even some internal facts about the animals of their interest with the help of echolocation. This is not possible with a pair of eyes. The process of echolocation is so strong that a dolphin can detect an object similar to the size of a pingpong-sized ball from a distance of a football ground.
Sound waves travel almost five times faster in water than in air, though it varies upon temperature, salinity, depth, and some other conditions of the water. Moreover, dolphin’s hearing range is 20Hz to 150KHz, which means they can hear about seven times better than a human does! These abilities make a dolphin extraordinary about the echolocation process.
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The science behind the echolocation process of dolphins
After taking a breath from the water surface the air goes through nasal sacs located below the blowhole. In the nasal passage, there are two sets of flaps known as phonic lips. These vibrate at high speed and generate distinctive sounds, known as clicks. Dolphin can produce about 2000 clicks per second.
The inhaled air can be recycled for around 10 minutes and dolphins can continuously produce sounds utilizing this feature. The sounds are focused on the object of interest by a liquid fatty deposit called the melon. After hitting, the object sound waves reflect back to the dolphins and they receive the returning waves by a similar fatty deposit present behind the lower jaw. This is connected with the middle ear which transmits it to the brain. In this way the brain makes the images and dolphins can ‘see’ with sound by echolocation. The process is almost similar to the ultrasonogram of pregnancy.
Ultrasonic sound waves are inaudible to humans due to higher frequencies, but using the same US wave dolphins are able to detect the movement of foetus within the womb. They react somewhat interestingly differently when becoming closer to a pregnant woman because they can see what’s inside the womb!
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Sounds yucky but it is a natural treasure of the sea and can be sold at high prices! Whale vomit is known as ambergris or ambergrease. It is produced by some sperm whales from the secretion of the bile duct and generally excreted as faecal matter. But if the lump of ambergris becomes larger to pass through the intestinal tract it comes out through the mouth like vomit. Probably this greasy secretion helps the undigested hard food material to pass through the digestive tract more easily.
Ambergris is a waxy, flammable solid substance with yellowish-grey or brownish in color. Freshly produced ambergris has a feacal odor and usually floats for days in the sea before reach the coastline. As it ages it acquires a sweet earthy smell, mostly like the smell of light alcohol.
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Utility of Whale’s vomit or Ambergris
Ambergris has been used in Ayurveda to treat epilepsy, typhoid, hysteria, and other nervous disorders. Nowadays this is used as a fixative in perfume industries to enhance the durability of a perfume, although, due to its rare availability and high price, it has been mostly replaced by synthetic ambroxide.
Raw ambergris is heated in alcohol then cooled to get white crystals of ambrein (C30H52O). Relatively scentless ambrein is further oxidized to produce ambroxide (C16H28O) and ambrinol. Ambroxide is well-known by the brand name Ambroxan which is the main scented component of ambergris and highly valuable to perfume makers.
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MEET THE ALL-FEMALE LIZARD SPECIES
The asexual whiptail lizard Aspidoscelis neomexicanus is a species totally comprised of all-female individuals. That means there is no male individual present in the species!
This species is produced either by the natural hybridization of two sexual species A. inornatus and A. tigris, or via parthenogenesis. The interspecific hybridization prevents healthy males from forming and only produces healthy females, whereas both parental species has male and female individuals in their population and they are capable to reproduce sexually.
A. neomexicanus is the official state reptile of New Mexico and found in southwestern United States, New Mexico, Arizona, and northern Mexico.
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Science behind the evolution of ALL-FEMALE LIZARD
As previously mentioned the lizard is a parthenogenetic species. Parthenogenesis is a process where newborns are formed from unfertilized eggs. Generally, an unfertilized egg has a half set or haploid set (n) of chromosome because gamete is produced by meiotic cell division as we found in parthenogenetic drone/male bees. But in the case of the whiptail lizard, this scenario is somewhat different.
The egg of mother cells undergoes a duplication of genetic materials/chromosomes prior to meiosis to become pseudo-tetraploid (4n) cells (differ from normal tetraploid cells by the constitution of chromosome but not in number). These cells undergo meiosis to form diploid (2n) eggs which grow into diploid females in absence of fertilization.
There is another deviation in the meiotic division of pseudo-tetraploid cells. During meiotic cell division instead of pairing between homologous chromosomes, the pairing and recombination occur exclusively between genetically identical chromosomes. This deviation perfectly explains the long-term maintenance of heterozygosity in parthenogenetic species.
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So, did you find the facts interesting? In the upcoming issue, we shall come up with more scientific facts about life and science. Stay tuned.