Initial Hypotheses

Photo taken by Leslie Smith off Abaco Island, Bahamas. This picture depicts three whales logging with one of the whales on the left blowing (the puff of water created from exhaling quickly out of the blow hole).

There have been several hypotheses over time as to the function of the spermaceti organ including:

A. Evacuation of air from the lungs prior to a deep dive (Schenkkan and Purves 1973; Clarke 1978).

B. Absorbing Nitrogen at extreme pressure from gases stored in the right nasal cavity before it enters the blood stream (Schenkkan and Purves 1973; Clarke 1978).

C. Hydrostatic function of cooling the spermaceti oil to compensate for increases in the density of the water (Clarke 1970).

Most of these old hypotheses, however, provide examples of auxillary uses of the spermaceti organ, but not its function. In other words, these hypotheses do not help to explain the evolutionary basis of the spermaceti organ (Cranford 1999). Further, the functions they describe probably would not even be functions of the spermaceti organ if the organ had not already evolved into its emmense proportions (Cranford 1999). The true function of the spermaceti organ should then be that which was selected for to cause the organ to evolve into its present state.

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