Saturday, March 14, 2009

Do Whales Have Uvulas?

My son asked me this after watching Finding Nemo. He thought it improbable because as he suggested, what would be large enough to choke a whale and therefore necessitate having a uvula to help cause a protective gag reflex? Excellent question, Son.

We googled it: "Do whales have a uvula?"--no, whales do not have uvulas (uvulae?). In fact very few animals do--humans and apes being some who do.

Then we looked up uvula and found that there is no consensus as to the purpose of the uvula. It may not be to elicit a gag reflex. The uvula secretes saliva, so perhaps it helps coat the throat; it is responsible for the formation of some sounds in some languages, so perhaps evolved as our languages did; it closes off the nasopharynx so that you don't constantly blow milk out of your nose. No one knows for sure what it's for.

What is it for??? I really want to know now.

New poll up at the left. Please vote and make your voice heard about this extremely important issue. Thank you.

1 comment:

Nat Taylor said...

There is a wonderful (but sad) 15-minute Disney cartoon, "The Whale who Wanted to Sing at the Met," from 1946, which features Willie the Whale -- who had three uvulas! The cartoon can be found online on youtube.

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