of which above the surface is absolutely necessary. Of numerous erroneous ideas connected with natural history, few are so widespread as that whales spout through their blow-holes water taken in at the mouth. But the “spouting,” or “blowing,” of whales is nothing more than the ordinary act of expiration, which, taking place at longer intervals than land-animals, is performed with a greater emphasis. The moment the animal rises to the surface it forcibly expels from its lungs the air taken in at the last inspiration, which is charged with vapour in consequence of the respiratory changes. This rapidly condensing in the cold atmosphere in which the phenomenon is often observed, forms a column of steam or spray, which has been taken for water. It happens, however, especially when the surface of the ocean is agitated into waves, that the animal commences its expiratory puff before the orifice has cleared the top of the water, some of which may thus be driven upwards with the blast, tending to complete the illusion. From photographs of spouting rorquals, it appears that the height and volume of the “spout” of all the species is much less than was supposed to be the case by the older observers; even that of the huge “sulphur-bottom” (Balaenoptera sibbaldi) averaging only about 14 ft. in height, although it may occasionally reach 20 ft.
As regards their powers of hearing, the capacity of cetaceans for receiving (and acting upon) sound-waves is demonstrated by the practice of shouting on the part of the fishermen when engaged in driving a shoal of porpoises or black-fish into shallow water, for the purpose of frightening their intended victims. As regards the possession of a voice by cetaceans, it is stated that one species, the “buckelwal” of the Germans, utters during the breeding-season a prolonged scream, comparable to the scream of a steam-siren, and embracing the whole musical scale, from base to treble. In respect of anatomical considerations, it is true that the external ear is much reduced, the “pinna” being absent, and the tube or “meatus” of very small calibre. On the other hand, the internal auditory organs are developed on the plan of those of ordinary mammals, but display certain peculiar modifications (notably the remarkable shell-like form of the tympanic bone) for intensifying and strengthening the sound-waves as they are received from the water. It seems, therefore, perfectly evident that whales must hear when in the water. This inference is confirmed by the comparatively small development of the other sense-organs. The eye, for instance, is very small, and can be of little use even at the comparatively small depths to which whales are now believed to descend. Again, the sense of smell, judging from the rudimentary condition of the olfactory organs, must be in abeyance; and whales have no sense-organs comparable to the lateral-line-system of fishes. Consequently, it would seem that when below the surface of the water they must depend chiefly upon the sense of hearing. Probably this sense is so highly developed as to enable the animals, in the midst of the vibrations made by the screw-like movements of the tail, or flukes, to distinguish the sound (or the vibrations) made by the impact of water against rocks, even in a dead calm, and, in the case of piscivorous species, to recognize by the pulse in the water the presence of a shoal of fish. Failing this explanation, it is difficult to imagine how whales can find their way about in the semi-darkness, and avoid collisions with rocks and rock-bound coasts.
In the Christiania Nyt Magazin for Naturvidenskaberne, vol. xxxviii., Dr G. Guldberg has published some observations on the body-temperature of the Cetacea, in which he shows how extremely imperfect is our knowledge of this subject. As he remarks, it is a matter of extreme difficulty to obtain the temperature of living cetaceans, although this has been taken in the case of a white-whale and a dolphin, which some years ago were kept in confinement in a pond in the United States. With the larger whales such a mode of procedure is, however, obviously quite impracticable, and we have, accordingly, to rely on post-mortem observations. The layer of blubber by which all cetaceans are protected from cold renders the post-mortem refrigeration of the blood a much slower process than in most mammals, so that such observations have a much higher value than might at first be supposed to be the case. Indeed, the blood-temperature of a specimen of Sibbald’s rorqual three days after death still stood at 34° C. The various observations that have been taken have afforded the following results in individual cases: Sperm-whale, 40° C.; Greenland right-whale, 38.8° C.; porpoise, 35.6° C.; liver of a second individual, 37.8° C.; common rorqual, 35.4° C.; dolphin, 35.6° C. The average blood-temperature of man is 37° C., and that of other mammals 39° C.; while that of birds is 42 C. The record of 40° C. in the case of the sperm-whale seems to indicate that at least some cetaceans have a relatively high temperature.
With the possible exception of one West African dolphin, all the Cetacea are predaceous, subsisting on living animal food of some kind. One kind alone (Orca) eats other warm-blooded animals, as seals, and even members of its own order, both large and small. Many feed on fish, others on small floating crustaceans, pteropods and jelly-fishes, while the principal staple of the food of many is constituted by cuttle-fishes and squids. In size cetaceans vary much, some of the smaller dolphins scarcely exceeding 4 ft. in length, while whales are the most colossal of all animals. It is true that many statements of their bulk are exaggerated, but the actual dimensions of the larger species exceed those of all other animals, not even excluding the extinct dinosaurian reptiles. With some exceptions, cetaceans are generally timid, inoffensive animals, active in their movements and affectionate in their disposition towards one another, especially the mother towards the young, of which there is usually but one, or at most two at a time. They are generally gregarious, swimming in herds or “schools,” sometimes amounting to many thousands in number; though some species are met with either singly or in pairs.
Commercially these animals are of importance on account of the oil yielded by the blubber of all of them; while whalebone, spermaceti and ambergris are still more valuable products yielded by certain species. Within the last few years whalebone has been sold in America for £2900 per ton, while it is also asserted that £3000 per ton has been paid for two and a quarter tons at Aberdeen, although there seems to be some degree of doubt attaching to the statement. Soon after the middle of the last century, the price of this commodity was as low as £150 per ton, but, according to Mr Frank Buckland, it suddenly leapt up to £620 with the introduction of “crinoline” into ladies’ costume, and it has apparently been on the rise ever since. Ambergris, which is very largely used in perfumery, is solely a product of the sperm-whale, and appears to be a kind of biliary calculus. It generally contains a number of the horny beaks of the cuttle-fishes and squids upon which these whales chiefly feed. Its market-price is subject to considerable variation, but from £3 to £4 per oz. is the usual average for samples of good quality. In 1898 a merchant in Mincing Lane was the owner of a lump of ambergris weighing 270 ℔, which was sold in Paris for about 85 s. per oz., or £18,360.
Whalebone Whales.—Existing Cetacea are divisible into two sections, or suborders, the relationships of which are by no means clearly apparent. The first section is that of the whalebone whales, or Mystacoceti, in which no functional teeth are developed, although there are tooth-germs during foetal life. The palate is furnished with plates of baleen or whalebone; the skull is symmetrical; and the nasal bones form a roof to the nasal passages, which are directed upwards and forwards. The maxilla is produced in front of, but not over, the orbital process of the frontal. The lacrymal is small and distinct from the jugal. The tympanic is welded with the periotic, which is attached to the base of the skull by two strong diverging processes. The olfactory organ is distinctly developed. The two halves of the lower jaw are arched outwards, their anterior ends meeting at an angle, and connected by fibrous tissue without any symphysis. All the ribs at their upper extremity articulate only with the transverse processes of the vertebrae; their capitular processes when present not articulating directly with the bodies of the vertebrae. The sternum is composed of a single piece, and articulates only with a single pair of ribs; and there are no ossified sternal ribs. External openings of nostrils distinct from each other, longitudinal. A short conical caecum.
When in the foetal state these whales have numerous minute teeth lying in the dental groove of both upper and lower jaws. They are best developed about the middle of foetal life, after which they are absorbed, and no trace of them remains at the time of birth. The whalebone does not make its appearance until after birth; and consists of a series of flattened horny plates, between three and four hundred in number, on each side of the palate, with a bare interval along the middle line. The plates are placed transversely to the long axis of the palate, with short intervals between them. Each plate or blade is somewhat triangular in form, with the base