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Chem Phys Lipids. 1982 Nov;31(3):237-44.

Role of isovaleroyl lipids in channeling of sound in the porpoise melon.


Physical properties (e.g. specific gravity, adiabatic compressibility and sound velocity) of lipids isolated from tissues from contiguous areas of the fatty melon of an echo-locating porpoise (Delphinus delphis) were determined to elucidate relations between lipid composition and structure, and sound transmission in the head. Lipid content varied greatly within the melon (13.6-77.6% of the tissue weight) and triacylglycerols (80-100%) were the major lipid components. This lipid class was composed of diisovaleroylglycerides (triacylglycerols containing two isovaleroyl moieties and a long-chain acyl moiety), monoisovaleroyldiacylglycerols and triacylglycerols consisting of long-chain acids. The lipid-rich (greater than 45%) areas in the melon contained a high proportion (greater than 45% of total triacylglycerols) of diisovaleroylglycerides. There were gradations of sound velocities within the melon; the lowest sound velocities were associated with high concentrations of diisovaleroylglycerides (less than 1400 m/s) and the highest with high concentrations of long-chain triacylglycerols. Assuming an average sound frequency of 75 kHz, and considering dimensions of melon (path length and width of 12-14 cm and 5 cm, respectively), a forward radiating lobe of 15-25 degrees is produced. Thus, the deposition of lipids of different acoustic properties in a three-dimensional matrix within the porpoise melon results in a lens for the projection of sound into the marine environment.

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