jerry jackson
Photographed by Bette Jackson

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Source: Dolphins 2

Length of Segment: 00:01:16

Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. Dolphins have a conspicuous domed-shaped bump on the forehead, but a look at the skull of a dolphin reveals not a bump but a similar shaped depression on the forehead. The depression cradles a special organ known as a 'melon' because it's shaped like a small melon. The melon is filled with oil and it's the melon that creates the dolphin's forehead bump. A dolphin's oil-filled melon serves as a lens, allowing the dolphin to focus sound in much of the same way that you might focus sunlight with a magnifying glass. That sound is used in communication, as a sonar-like aid in navigation, and as a tool used in hunting. Just as focused sunlight concentrates solar energy enough to start a fire, a dolphin's focused sound energy is strong enough to disorient, stun, or even kill a fish. The sources of the dolphin's sound are its nostrils, located just behind the melon. The dolphin's nostrils have moved back to near the top of the head where they share a single opening for breathing. The bony chambers of the nostrils are different in size, allowing the dolphin to produce different sounds with each nostril, thus increasing its vocabulary.

'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson.

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