- A-Z Animals
Whales are large-sized marine mammals belonging to the Cetacea infraorder just like porpoises and dolphins. Being in existence for more than 40 million years, they are the only mammals to survive underwater throughout their lives and cannot exist when brought to land. Since they were one of the most hunted species, they are presently under international law’s protection.
There are eight existing families of whales, namely Ziphiidae, Physeteridae, Kogiidae, Eschrichtiidae, Monodontidae, Balaenopteridae, Cetotheriidae, and Balaenidae. The following are the species belonging to the different families.
North Atlantic Right Whale
North Pacific Right Whale
Amazon River Dolphin
Short-finned Pilot Whale
Southern Right Whale
False Killer Whale
Common Minke Whale
Long-finned Pilot Whale
South Asian River Dolphin
Pygmy Sperm Whale
Northern Bottlenose Whale
Dwarf Sperm Whale
La Plata Dolphin
Pygmy Right Whale
Blainville’s Beaked Whale
Southern Bottlenose Whale
Sowerby’s Beaked Whale
Antarctic Minke Whale
Baird’s Beaked Whale
Tropical Bottlenose whale
Ginkgo-toothed Beaked Whale
True’s Beaked Whale
Gervais’ Beaked Whale
Pygmy Beaked Whale
Andrews’ Beaked Whale
Perrin’s Beaked Whale
Gray’s Beaked Whale
Shepherd’s Beaked Whale
Hector’s Beaked Whale
Size: They have a wide range of sizes varying from 102.3 inches (2.6 meters) to 1177 inches (29.9 inches).
Weight: Their weight on an average varies between 298 lbs and 190 metric tonnes.
Color: The color of whales varies from different shades of gray, black, and blue that tend to get darker as they mature in age. Certain species are brown, while the beluga whale is white since birth.
Teeth: Some whale species have teeth while a few do not. The toothed whales have sharp conical teeth with the help of which they grab and catch their prey, before swallowing them. Some even make use of their teeth to tear and break their game.
Baleen whales are the toothless species that have baleen plates inside their mouth with the help of which they can expel the water but retain the plankton and krill that they feed.
Limbs: Their forelimbs have been modified into flippers and are similar to paddles. Though most whales lack hind legs, it is present in some of them, resembling a short stub.
Heart: They have a four-chambered heart, with thick arterial walls, the total weight being between 395 pounds and 440 pounds on an average.
Fin: They have four fins, two pectoral, a dorsal and a caudal. While the caudal fin help in to-and-fro movements the pectoral fins serve as stabilizers and rudders.
Tail: The whales have horizontal tails, with the tail fin located in the front.
They inhabit the major oceans of the world, including the Arctic and Antarctic and can even be found in the tropical waters surrounding the equator.
Their lifespan varies, with species like the Killer whale living for 29 years, whereas the Humpback whale may thrive for over 50 years. The bowhead whale is said to be the oldest living species, living for 200 years on average.
Their food habits differ according to their size and the environment in which they live. While some consume fish, squid, shrimp, larvae, krill, crab and plankton, some of them like the killer whale devours bigger games like the sea lion, shark, walrus as well as other whales.
When they get ready to reproduce, the whales generally migrate to places far from their feeding grounds in search of their mates. While the male whales mature in 7 to 10 years, their female counterparts take 5 to 10 years for maturation.
During courtship, conflicts arise between males in pursuit of the females, with the strongest emerging victorious. The whale songs are common during the mating period, mostly emitted by the males. However, if one of the singing males come in contact with the other, it could result in bouts of aggression.
The gestation period of females is somewhere between 10 and 16 months though it varies from one species to the other. Since the babies are born in the water, the delivery is arranged in such a way that the tail comes out first, so that the young ones would not drown in the process.
Since they are mammals, the whales possess mammary glands through which a milk-like paste is produced for feeding the calves. The paste has a thick consistency and is high in fat, helping in the development of the blubber.
The female whales are known to give birth to one calf in a span of one and six years, and twins are rare. The females take the responsibility of the young ones while the males have no role in raising their offsprings.
As whaling has increased over the years, its population has been under threat since 1946. The International Whaling Commission has implemented a moratorium for every country, though the aboriginal communities were excluded until 2004. According to the IWC, two sanctuaries, the Indian Ocean Whale Sanctuary, and the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary have been designated for this purpose. Out of the 86 species of the cetacean infra order, recognized by the IUCN as of 2013, 40 of them are whales. Six species are ranked as Critically Endangered, the North Grey whale being one of them. The North Atlantic right whale is a species on the verge of extinction, with only 450 of them remaining.
1. What is a group of whales called?
A gam, school or pod.
2. Is whale a fish?
No, they are mammals and warm-blooded unlike fish
3. What is a baby whale called?
4. Why are whales called mammals?
Because they have für, birth their young ones, breathe air and milk their calves.
5. Are whales carnivores?
Yes, as they eat the meat of squid, octopus, and fish.
6. Are dolphins whales?
Though both belong to the same family, dolphins are not whales.
7. What are male and female whales called?
Males and females are called bulls and cows, respectively.
8. Do whales have real bones?
Yes, made of real calcium.
9. Do they have a backbone?
Yes, long in size, going up from its skull, to its tail.
10. Do whales live in groups?
Yes, and they mostly live and hunt together.