The swollen portion of the dolphin's head is called its melon. A muscular flap covers a small opening
called the "blowhole" in the center of the melon. The blowhole allows air to pass into the lungs and allows carbon dioxide
and other gaseous wastes to be expelled from the lungs.
Toothed whales like dolphins and porpoises
have single blowholes on their melons, whereas true (baleen) whales have two. The melon houses, among other things, many small
air sacs which are used to produce click vibrations. These vibrations pass outward through the salt water, strike an
object and bounce back for interpretation. The melon is able to focus its "beam" of clicks toward objects of interest.
This process of object size, shape, distance, thickness and direction identification is called echolocation (see the "echolocation"
section of this site for further information). These click vibrations return to the animal's teeth, which act like antennae
to collect the sound waves and pass them to the lower jaw bone. They collect within a fatty area in the lower jaw bone,
where they are then sent to the inner ear bones and on to the brain via the auditory nerve. The dolphin’s echolocation
system can identify an object as small as a ping pong ball as far away as 100 yards.
In addition, the various colorful patterns
on the dolphin’s melon, along with the animal’s fin structure and signature whistle, serve to identify individual
Understanddolphins.com contains information condensed from a number of reputable technical sources,
peer reviewed journal articles, and respected dolphin research facilities, as well as from my personal experiences and
observations as a dolphin VIP Tour Guide and Educator.
I have made every attempt to support the information presented in this site with video and still
photographic images. On a regular basis I plan to produce more of these images and will continue to update the site with these
as well as with any new and scientifically verified information which becomes available.