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Giants of the Sea

Whales have captured the imagination of humans since time immemorial. Their size - truly colossal - leaves no room for doubt: whales are a wonder of nature.

Recent research has revealed complex social relations, disquieting sounds and intense cerebral activity in whales, which despite living in the cold waters of the oceans are warm-blooded mammals with lungs - not gills, like many of their fellow water-dwellers.

In scientific terms, whales belong to the Cetacean order, in which there are two sub-orders: the Mysticeti, those with baleen plates instead of teeth, and the Odontoceti, whales with teeth - which includes dolphins.

Within these categories is a family of whales that is bigger than one might think. There are more then 40 species, according to information available on the Internet.

These gigantic mammals are popular in cyberspace. But many of the sites dedicated to whales reveal their sad story - the webpages are motivated by the urgent need to save whales and their habitat.

Foundations and organizations are clamoring for a better relationship between whales and their predators: humans. Some countries continue to hunt whales, which are also victims of ocean contamination.

The depredation of whales is among the ecological conservation topics that are being hotly debated today, generating intense negotiations among the countries belonging to an international commission.

Cetacea: General Information
Cetaceans
International Whale Commission
Greenpeace: Petition for Whale Sanctuary
Whale Conservation
The Voyage of the Odyssey
Whale Species
Research on Whales
Whale songs
The Whaleman Foundation

Savage Beauty

Orchids boast a profound beauty - which seems to originate at the beginning of time. In fact, according to data circulating on the always-well-informed Internet, orchids have been around for at least 120 million years.

Since then they have proliferated and spread throughout the world, with the exception of the ice-covered poles or the deserts. They are most abundant in tropical areas. There are 25,000 to 30,000 varieties of orchids in the forests, that is, naturally occurring orchids.

When talking about these flowers it is necessary to clarify whether one is speaking of natural species because there are numerous varieties in existence that have been created by humans who have been captivated by the orchid's savage beauty.

This obsession, one that can be traced back to ancient civilizations, has generated an entire ''culture'' surrounding the orchid, and includes gardening techniques, vast numbers of scientific classifications, societies and clubs of orchid hobbyists, trade, expositions, a specialized vocabulary, literature and art - especially photography.

The flower from the family orchidaceae, which possesses a complex biology, thrives in greenhouse gardens around the world. But in nature, these beauties face the same dangers as their natural habitat: the forest. The world of the orchid is shrinking due to widespread deforestation.

To enter the world of orchids on the Internet:

Obsession with Orchids - PBS
Orchid House
OrchidWeb.org
Directory: Orchids on the Internet
All About Orchids

Inhabitants of the Water

When we think about fish, we always imagine water too, their natural world. Fish have inhabited water nearly since life began on Earth, when the evolutionary process was initiated that has led to an enormous family: 20,000 to 30,000 different species of fish have been recorded.

The Encyclopedia Britannica defines fish as ''any of a variety of cold-blooded vertebrate animals (phylum Chordata) found in the fresh and salt waters of the world.''

Any journey through the Internet's world of fish found quickly reveals the meaning of ''ichthyology'': the science dedicated to the study of these cold-blooded aquatic vertebrates. The cyber-excursion also allows the traveler to explore the worlds of scientific classifications, glossaries, collections, digital aquariums, and even mythology.

Fish constitute an essential part of life on this planet, and they are key to the aquatic ecosystems that cover more than three-quarters of the Earth's surface. As far as their connection to humans, fish provide an important source of protein, though over-exploitation of this natural resource has caused profound distortions in the environment.

Following is a guide for beginning your navigation through the watery world of fish:

Encyclopedia Britannica: Fish
Australian Museum: Fish
More than 100 Aquariums on Yahoo!
Fish: Frequently Asked Questions
List of Fish Species

 


 

Copyright © 2001 Tierramérica. Todos los Derechos Reservados

 

Grey whale in Mexico's Laguna Guerrero Negro. / Credit: Claudio Contreras
Grey whale in Mexico's Laguna Guerrero Negro. / Credit: Claudio Contreras

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credit: Claudio Contreras
Credit: Claudio Contreras

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Angel Fish in the Caribbean Sea. Credit: Claudio Contreras
 Angel Fish in the Caribbean Sea. Credit: Claudio Contreras