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Front and center: physics and the large size of whales

Event Details

Event Dates: 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018 - 4:00pm

Seminar Location: 

  • Duane Physics Room G1B20

Speaker Name(s): 

Jean Potvin

Speaker Affiliation(s): 

St. Louis University
Seminar Type/Subject

Scientific Seminar Type: 

  • Physics Department Colloquium

Event Details & Abstract: 

Large baleen whales such as the humpback and blue whales have become the shining stars of a great number of popular nature documentaries. Paradoxically, much of their physiology remains poorly understood. Generally one must look into a complex web of relationships between morphology, physiology, ecology and bio-mechanics to explain the whys and hows of, for example, body architecture. In this presentation I show that the blue whales and their baleen-bearing cousins represent shining examples of the central role played by physics in shaping their evolution into the largest and most massive life forms to have ever lived on Earth. The peculiarities of their feeding strategies permit the use of simple formulations of the work-energy and momentum conservation principles to estimate swimming metabolic energetic expenditures over size and demonstrate how body gigantism can not only become an advantage but also a disadvantage. This presentation will also show the results of an ongoing NSF-funded and inter-disciplinary study aimed at collecting kinematic and video data on humpback and blue whales foraging off the coast of California, with the goals of further understanding their feeding behavior as well as providing data for physical modeling validation.


http://Coffee, tea, and cookies will be available starting at 3:45 p.m., in DUAN G1B31.

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