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A Marine Lab Giant
A Marine Lab Giant

In February this 13-foot-long, half-ton sperm-whale skull became the latest, and by far the largest, biological specimen added to the Coastal and Marine Laboratory. The skull, with its distinct shape and size, offers invaluable lessons for FSU students and marine lab visitors, said Douglas Nowacek, assistant professor of oceanography.

The brain case and upper jaw, shown here, adapted its unique form and proportions over millions of years to accommodate the largest whale "melon"—the oval, fatty organ that fills the whale's massive forehead and helps focus the booming sound that whales make.

This skull came from a 40-foot sperm whale that died in the Florida Keys last November. Eventually picked clean by birds and microbes, the skull was hauled to the lab at Turkey Point in Franklin County. Nowacek expects the lab will receive later this year the mammal's lower jaw, and several vertebrae and ribs. —C.S.