Whales and dolphins remain a constant source of fascination. But how much do we really know about them? Whales and dolphins, known as cetaceans, may appear to be totally alien to us — but with their mental ability, group communication and the recent discovery that dolphins have individual names, they are closer to us than we ever imagined. Nature: Ocean Giants provides new insights into the lives of whales and dolphins in a visually powerful, engaging and entertaining format. The three part series premieres Wednesday, February 22 at 8:00pm on WPBT2.
In the first of three hours, Giant Lives, we examine the world of great whales, such as the blue whale and the bowhead, the largest animals that have ever lived on our planet. To these mighty leviathans, size matters. In the Arctic, giant bowhead whales survive the freezing cold wrapped in fifty tons of insulating blubber two feet thick, making them the fattest animals on the planet. And in addition to being the fattest, they may live the longest.
The second hour, Deep Thinkers, explores the cognitive and emotional lives of dolphins and whales, which have the largest brains of any animal. Like us, cetaceans have special brain cells called spindle cells that are associated with communication, emotion, and heightened social sensitivity. These cells were once thought to be unique to humans, yet research is showing that whales and dolphins have may have three times more spindle cells than we do, leading scientists to believe that their mental abilities and emotional awareness could be far greater than we imagined.
In the final hour, Voices of the Sea, the extra sensory perceptions and communication skills of these extraordinary creatures are considered. Whales and dolphins use sound to hunt, to communicate with one another, and also to “see” and experience the world around them. Sending out loud clicks, they use the echoes to form a mental picture of the world around them. They use ultrasound to see inside other creatures, clicks and whistles to speak, echolocation to navigate and hunt in the depths where the light cannot guide them.