All About Whales

Whales are large, intelligent, aquatic mammals. They breathe air through blowholes into lungs, unlike fish who breathe using gills. Whales have sleek, streamlined bodies that move easily through the water. They are the only mammals, other than manatees (seacows) and dolphins, that live their entire lives in the water, and the only mammals that have adapted to life in the open oceans. Whales live in all of the world’s oceans, though their specific range varies by species.

Humpback Whale ~

All whales are either Baleen or Toothed. Baleen whales have a filtering system that is built into their lower jaw area. They can graze through the water at low speeds and take in plenty of water and food. The water is removed from it and they swallow the food. They can graze through the water at low speeds and take in plenty of water and food. The water is removed from it and they swallow the food. Toothed Whales too swallow whole. However, they use their teeth to tear of pieces of very large prey.

They can only consume what is small enough for them to easily swallow, several kind of fish, like tuna, cod and salmon among others and some small mammals like seals.. There are rows of plates in their jaws that work like teeth though so they can still be a threat if necessary.

Beluga whale mother with young calf ~

More than 50 million years ago, their ancestors walked on land.. Some paleontologists believe they may have been hoofed mammals, something like modern cows. Other paleontologists believe that whales were more like modern wolves. Over the course of millions of years, the ancient creatures spent more and more time in the water, living partly on land and partly in the sea, like modern sea lions or otters. Eventually, the creatures stopped climbing onto land altogether, and they slowly lost their now-useless legs and fur.

Humpaback Whales Playing in the Ocean in Juneau, Alaska ~

Many whale species are staggeringly enormous. The blue whale, for example, can grow to 100 feet (30 m) long, about the height of a 10-story building, and can weigh as much as 150 tons (300,000 lb or 136077.7 kg). It is the largest known animal in Earth’s history. The blue whale is the same size as a 737 airplane, its tongue alone weighs more than a whole elephant. Its mouth is big enough to fit 100 people,it’s heart can be as big as a small car and its arteries are so big that a basketball could float through them.

When a blue whale dives into the water, its head is already deeper than most scuba divers dare to go before its tail leaves the surface of the water. On land, an animal the size of the blue whale would be crushed by its weight without the support of large, heavy bones. Because it is supported by water as a marine animal, the need for large, heavy bones is eliminated, allowing the blue whale to reach such a massive size.

Humpback whale breaching ~

Gray whales migrate over 12,000 miles a year, farther than any other mammal known. Their bodies resemble the streamlined form of a fish, while the forelimbs or flippers are paddle-shaped. The tail fins, or flukes, enable whales to propel themselves through the water. Most species of whale have a fin on their backs known as a dorsal fin. Beneath the skin lies a layer of fat called blubber. It serves as an energy reservoir and also as insulation. Whales breathe through blowholes, located on the top of the head so the animal can remain submerged. Whales can swim as fast as 30 miles per hour. Some whales can stay underwater for as long as 90 minutes. Baleen whales have two blowholes,while toothed whales have one.

Whale breaching ~

Many whales, especially baleen whales, tend to migrate long distances from their cold-water feeding grounds to warm-water breeding grounds each year. Male whales are called bulls, and females are called cows. Their young are called calves. They travel alone or in groups, or pods, on their annual migrations. Toothed whales often hunt in groups, migrate together and share young-rearing duties. Baleen whales use sonar to communicate with one another, emitting low-frequency sounds that can travel enormous distances under water. The bass notes uttered by baleen whales are the loudest natural noises made by any animal.

Two humpback whales ~

Some cultures see whales as divine beings, such as in some places in Ghana and the Vietnamese, who occasionally hold funerals for beached whales.While ancient fishermen used the meat of whales for food, in the modern era whales were primarily hunted for oil and whalebone, a term used for the baleen. Whalebone was used to make corsets, umbrella ribs, handles, and brushes, while the oil was used for cooking, candle wax and, much later, making margarine.

People on a whale watching trip with two whales ~

During the height of commercial whaling in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the large baleen whales were the most highly sought after and, consequently, they now experience the lowest population levels. Of the 11 known species of baleen whales, nine are officially endangered with population numbers that are just a small fraction of what they were 100 years ago. I n 1986, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) declared a moratorium on commercial whaling in response to the severe depletion of many whale species. There are now only a few nations that practice commercial whaling