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Lipids. 1976 Feb;11(2):153-6.

Variations in lipid composition and sound velocity in melon from the North Atlantic Pilot whale, globicephala melaena melaena.


Nonpolar lipids and sound velocity at different distances from the skin surface within a sample of pilot whale melon were studied. Thin layer chromatography, sensitive radioisotopic methods, and an ultrasonic echo scanner were used. Wax esters had a maximum concentration at 11-12 cm from the skin surface. Non- and monoisovalero triglycerides both exhibited a minimum at 8-10 cm, whereas the diisovalero species increased steadily from the skin surface towards the center of the pilot whale head. A minimum of sound velocity, ca. 1340 m/s, was found at 9-11 cm, thus coinciding with a region rich in isovaleric acid esterified in wax and diisovalero triglycerides. These findings are compatible with predictions based on the known correlations between lipid structure and sound velocity. Consequently, additional evidence for refraction of sound in pilot whale melon is presented. This is important in understanding the system of echolocation of toothed whales.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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