Form and Function

Common Dolphins have many inherited physical traits that allow them to survive in in their particular marine environment. For example, a very interesting physicality of the common dolphin species includes its sound perceiving and generating organs. The anatomies of dolphins show that there are air passages that are connected to their sound generating organs. What is peculiar is the fact that these passages do not necessarily contribute to the normal respiration processes of the creature; instead, the air that is reused many times over for the creation of sound. (Rodionov et al. 2012)

The sound generated in itself very distinctive. Not only is the organ used by the Common Dolphin very unique, it also creates a very recognizable sound that is essential for underwater communication between the individuals of its species. The muscles that surround the supracranial air sacs function to move air through the valves of the resonance structure. This needs to be done in very specific ways in order to create the desired whistle or tone for the dolphin. For variation, the two sides of a dolphin’s nasal cavity are actually independent of each other concerning air circulation. This allows individuals to communicate using not only one, but two sources of sound. (Rodionov et al. 2012)

 This wide ability to manipulate sound allows the dolphin species to use echolocation as well as establish intricate social groups within their own population clusters. (Chanis et al. 2005)

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Dolphins are mammals, this means they rely on breathing in oxygen through the air just as humans do; the difference is that dolphins constantly have to live a life underwater. Because of this, in order to successfully survive in their marine environment they must efficiently utilize the amount of oxygen they take in. This reserve of oxygen is kept within in the animal’s lungs, muscles, and blood. A study was conducted involving Bottlenose Dolphins (close relatives of the Common Dolphin) in Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, Hawaii, that showed the physical effects of balanced oxygen usage throughout the organism’s body. It was shown that the lactate concentration within the muscles and blood of the dolphins while diving went up non-linearly as it held its breath, much like the muscles of a land mammal’s would during a continuous exercise. The average time spent underwater per dive was found to around 268 seconds, that’s a little bit over 4.5 minutes. The study concluded that while the constant action of swimming and diving for dolphins is costly in terms of energy, the animals can make up for it by adjusting their own swimming techniques. (Friedl et al. 1999)

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