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James, in a typical conversation that began with "Smell my finger!" and ended with "Pardon me while I kiss the sky!" posed the following intriguing question, which answer I do not know.

Do whales have mucus in their blowholes? (Translated from the original James.) And I'd add, do they sneeze? Do they get stuffed up? Is the cloud of spray from a whale spouting in part whalesnot? I sort of suspect that the sheer power of the ejecting air would render any stuffiness moot, but now I'm curious...

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I -do- know (thanks to men's magazines) that whales pass gas.

I do not know about mucus. Mucus seems a fairly redundant thing when living in water.

Talk about random thoughts :)

They presumably have mucous in their blowholes, to lubricate the mucous membranes of the respiratory system-- this is just an ejumacated guess.

I know they can't "sneeze" as a reflex like most other mammals. They sort of cough at best, and it's not all that explosive of a purging.

There is probably not enough mucous in the exhalation to account for the cloud, that's mostly water vapor in the lungs and surface water from around the blowhole valve.

Todays inane factoids brought to you by the number 5 and my moderately useless biology degree. Well, I guess it's not entirely useless, I had fun learning these inane factoids, and random comments about newt mating behavior are terribly good conversation starters.

*L* good to know I'm not the only one around here with a moderately useless biology degree who only brings it out for inane facts and strange conversational pieces :)

(can't remember anything about the blowhole on this end though. Think the only thing the professor put on that exam about whales was actually the baleen and the baculum actually ...)

One of the profs at my alma mater had a baculum walking stick if I recall correctly. This was hearsay though, I never saw it and it may have been a transfer student talking about a previously-attended university.

Talk about a good conversation piece though...lol

Probably not, but I'm going to tell you anyhow.

A baculum is apparently the penis-bone that many animals have - including, apparently, whales.

As a walking stick... oh my.

*L* would be a good conversation piece indeed.

My professor put it on an exam where many different specimens (mostly bones) were put throughout the lab and you had to answer questions at each.

First question was something along the lines of what type of animal is this from, various classification questions & other more specific questions. Then he put a 'bonus question' on that one asking why half the class would be cringing as they looked at this specimen. *G*

This falls under the same category as my "Do dolphins yawn?" quest.

Which, by the way, they do, but not for the same reasons we do.

I found out my answer at Google's Answers section. http://answers.google.com/answers/

You have to pay though. I paid $2.30 to know about yawning dolphins, but I really wanted to know, plus I wanted to see if Google Answers really work. : )

Whale sneezes and hippo conundrums

*hangs head in shame* I didn't know off the bat. At one point I wanted to be a cetacean biologist, but I only have a useless biology degree and live in the desert far from any marine life of any sort. A quick search revealed the following:

Cetaceans do have mucus in their blowholes. Part of the cloud of spray from a whale blowing on the surface is mucus from the nasal cavity, though it's mostly water vapor and oil droplets from the sinuses.

Whales can get infections in their blowholes, much like we can get sinus infections. Discharge of mucus is often a symptom of infection. Whales can cough through their blowholes, but don't actually sneeze the way we (or our dogs or cats) would.

And on an interesting tangent, my genetics prof indicated that molecular evidence is forcing a reclassification of several mammalian orders. The artiodactyles (even-toed hooved mammals such as cows, goats and deer) and cetacea (whales, dolphins and porpoises) are being reclassified into a single order or maybe a superorder called artio-cetacea or some such. Hooray for the weirdness of hippos.

Re: Whale sneezes and hippo conundrums

And hyraxes, also an "early common prototype" creature in this lineage. The hyrax is a sort of hooved ruminant -- but with a tiny hoof on each toe, rather like a human fingernail I'm told.

"I hate the heinous hyrax," she said...

===|==============/ Level Head

Re: Whale sneezes and hippo conundrums

Woo! Thank you, I feel better for knowing this.

Whoa! This puts a whole new perspective in that one really old Mario game -- was it Mario Brothers 2? -- in which there was a level in which you walked around on little clouds generated by whales' spouting.

Thanks. Now I have the image of Murray the Sperm whale carrying around waterproof tissues and complaining about his allergies to algae and kelp and "oi, the sea urchins!" (say in jewish/newyork accent)

I gotta say by all the responses- how many here have useless Biology degrees that have nothing to do with their current jobs, their lifestyle, or anything in particular?

I'm one- I counted two or three others...

As you may have gathered from my above message, I'm one. The closest I get to working with my degree nowadays is having wildlife pictures around my desk at my job ;)

Yup, I'm definitely one. I got a moderately useless Classics (Latin & Greek, etc.) degree while I was at it too, but my grammar and spelling is nearly impeccable, in part thanks to it. But I enjoyed almost all the classes I took, it's why I majored in those departments. About the closest my current income endeavors bring me to animals are the pets some of my clients have.

whale snot

Would you believe the irony of this? I just read this post only to go downstairs and turn on the TV to the National geographic channel, just in time to see a beached beluga. And there was plenty of mucus coming out of the blowhole. A lot of mucus. Fortunately the tide came and the whale got free leaving me wondering whether or not that was coincidence or if forces are conspiring to let me know that whales have boogers.

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