The Scanning Ocean Sectors glossary is specific to the marine mammal industry. These terms are used throughout the training course so please make sure you are familiar with them.


An aromatic substance occasionally found in the gastrointestinal tract of some great whales, formerly valued greatly in the manufacture of perfumes.



A substance made of a protein called keratin that forms “plates” in the mouths of some whales; used to strain their food. Also known as whalebone.


Baleen whales

Whales belonging to the sub-order mysticetes. These whales lack teeth, which have been replaced by a series of baleen plates that serve as strainers for collecting food.


Bio sonar

The use of sound by animals to gain information about the distance, shape, movement, or other properties of objects in their environment. While research on captive animals has found that biosonar in some species is a highly capable discrimination tool, very little research has been done on how biosonar is actually used in the wild. The simple presence of pulsed vocalizations by cetaceans does not necessarily mean that biosonar is in use, contrary to popular opinion.



The expelling of moisture laden air exhaled through the nasal opening (s) of whales.



The nasal opening (s) of whales.



A thick layer of fat found in marine birds and mammals that is used for insulation, an aid in buoyancy and as an energy reserve.



A physiological mechanism by which the heart rate is able to be slowed in order to use oxygen most efficiently; used by some animals during times of oxygen depravation such as deep water dives.



A spectacular behaviour exhibited by whales in which the animal propels itself out of the water and clears the surface with at least two-thirds of its body.



A male cetacean.



The total number of non-target organisms caught incidentally in non-selective fishing gear.



The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. An international treaty designed to protect endangered species from the pressures of commercial trade.



A newborn cetacean.



An organism that eats meat. A predatory organism that feeds on the bodies of other animals.


Carrying capacity

The maximum number of organisms that an ecosystem can support on a continued basis, usually determined by the availability of space, water, food and light.



The class of marine invertebrates that includes squid, octopus, cuttlefish and others.


Cerebral cortex

The portion of the vertebrate brain in which learning, reasoning, sensory perception, memory and the coordination of most bodily activity occur.



The order of marine mammals including whales, dolphins and porpoises.



A female cetacean.



The family of cetaceans including dolphins.



Pertaining to the back.



A method of orientation used by dolphins, whales and bats in which the size and position of objects are determined by emitting sounds and listening for the echoes that bounce back from them.


Ecological Niches

The ecological niche of an organism depends not only on where it lives but also on what it does. By analogy, it may be said that the habitat is the organism’s “address”, and the niche is its “profession”, biologically speaking.



Applies to those species in danger of extinction within all or a significant portion of their range.



Unique to a particular region; found nowhere else.



An adult whale that accompanies a cow-calf pod.



The two horizontally broadened fins that comprise a whale’s tail. Each individual lobe is called a fluke.


Head lunging

An aggressive behaviour exhibited by whales whereby one whale forcefully lunges its head at another whale; believed to ward off competitors.



An organism that eats plants or their products; a primary consumer.


High seas

Those regions of the ocean that fall outside the 200 mile legal boundary of ocean that surrounds any country or territory; often referred to as “the global commons”



The International Whaling Commission; the international organization founded in 1946 to manage and conserve populations of the great whales for the benefit of future generations.



Naturally occurring in more than one place.



Non-selective; random.



A sulfur-containing protein that makes up hard tissues such as nails, horns and the outermost cells of skin.



Small planktonic marine shrimp; a favourite food of baleen whales.



Animals belonging to the class of vertebrates that are warm-blooded, bear live young and nurse them with milk. Also associated with the possession of hair or fur for body covering.



a large lens-shaped organ found in the forehead of dolphins and toothed whales that concentrates and emits the sounds used in echolocation.



The regular shedding of an outer body covering such as fur, skin or feathers. Occurs in Hawaiian monk seals.



Applies to individuals or species that have only one mate at a time.



The legal banning of a particular activity for a defined period of time.



The sub-order of whales that includes baleen whales.



The sub-order of whales that includes toothed-whales.



The regulation of movement of water between two solutions with different concentrations when the solutions are separated through a semi-permeable membrane



The fourth level used in biological classification.



The ‘tail stock’ of a cetacean which the flukes are attached to.


Pirate whaling

Whaling that is considered illegal following the enactment of the moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986.



A social group of whales.



Applies to individuals or species that have more than one mate at a time.



A group of individuals, most often of the same species, that occupy a particular region at the same time.



An organism that feeds upon another.



In a feeding relationship, the organism that is killed and eaten by another.



Common group name for the Balaenopterid whales (blue, fin, sei, Bryde’s, minke). Rorquals are fast-moving lunge-feeders with relatively short baleen.



The structure formed by the forward-projecting parts of the jaws in some marine mammals. The “nose” of the bottlenose dolphin is actually a rostrum. It really isn’t a “nose” at all, since the nasal passages don’t come anywhere near it.


Scientific whaling

Whaling for the purpose of scientific data collection that is legally permitted under the commercial whaling moratorium of 1986.


Sexual dimorphism

The ability to distinguish between males and females of the same species on the basis of external body characteristics.



All the populations of organisms that are capable of breeding under natural conditions and that are reproductively isolated from other organisms; the basic lower unit of biological classification.


Spout (blow)

The exhaled breathe of a whale; appears like a cloud of condensation above the water.



A behaviour where a cetacean lifts its head vertically from the water to look around.



Pertaining to the survival or continued existence of; means of support or livelihood.


Target species

Those species, intended to be hunted or fished.



The science of biological classification.



Applies to those species likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future.


Toothed whales

Whales and dolphins belonging to the sub-order odontocetes that has teeth.



Pertaining to the underside or belly.