Salty Cetaceans

By: Emma Foster, Ana Alcantara, Apsara Gurung (Stonehill College, BIO 323 Evolution, Fall 2019) 

While humans can taste a variety of flavors, this is not true for all mammals. Researches Dr. Kangli Zhu and other collaborators recently published the research article “The loss of taste genes in cetaceans,” and found that they are only able to detect one out of five sensations of taste. These tastes include sweet, salty, bitter, umami, and sour, but they can only taste salt. Taste is important to mammal adaptations, particularly in cetaceans, which are a group of organisms including whales, dolphins, and porpoises. Umami and sweet taste sensations are important for finding and eating nutritious protein- and energy-rich foods. Salt is also an attractive taste and helps animals maintain sodium levels. Bitter taste is beneficial for aversion to prevent ingestion of toxic or harmful foods. Sour taste also prevents the ingestion of potentially unripe or decayed foods.  

Bottlenose Dolphin
Image credit: “A little smile for you” by San Diego Shooter is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Continue reading “Salty Cetaceans”