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COMMON NAME: Whales SCIENTIFIC NAME: Cetacea DIET: Carnivore LIFE SPAN: 200 yrs+ SIZE: 9 feet to 98 feet long WEIGHT: 500 pounds to 200 tons

Whales are the largest animals on earth and they live in every ocean. The massive mammals range from the 600-pound dwarf sperm whale to the colossal blue whale, which can weigh more than 200 tons and stretch up to 100 feet long—almost as long as a professional basketball court.

Whales are warm-blooded creatures that nurse their young.

Types of whales There are two types of whales: toothed and baleen. Toothed whales, as the name suggests, have teeth, which are used to hunt and eat squid, fish, and seals. Toothed whales include sperm whales, as well as dolphins, porpoises, and orcas, among others. The narwhal’s “horn” is actually one long tooth protruding through its lip. Baleen whales are larger than toothed whales, for the most part. They include blue whales, humpbacks, right whales, bowhead whales, and others. They feed by straining tiny shrimp-like creatures called krill through the fringed plates of long, fingernail-like material called baleen attached to their upper jaws.

Whale calls Whales, particularly humpbacks, produce otherworldly vocalizations that can be heard for miles underwater. The songs, complex combinations of moans, howls, and cries that can continue for hours, are produced when whales push air around in their heads, then amplify the sounds through a blob of fat that perches on the top jaw. It’s thought that whales communicate through the calls, which researchers believe can be heard for thousands of miles.

Threats Though the stark population declines from hunting have largely stopped, several whale species are threatened or endangered—including the blue whale, right whale, and fin whale—by a combination of fishing net entanglements and being struck by ships.

Did you know....

  • The accumulated wax inside of a whale’s ear can be used to tell its age as well as any stresses or toxins it may have encountered. 

  • The closest living relative of cetaceans, which includes whales, porpoises and dolphins, are hippos.  

  • The genitals of male whales are actually tucked inside of them when they aren’t mating, this reduces drag and allows them to swim faster. 

  • Whales are born tail first, meaning their head comes out last.

  • Adult narwhals have only two teeth. In most males, the right tooth stays in the skull, while the left one forms a spiral that can extend over three metres.

  • The largest animal ever known to have lived on earth, the blue whale, eats krill, tiny shrimp-like animals about the size of a jelly bean. 

  • Whales sleep with one brain hemisphere at a time, which allows them to continue coming to the surface to breathe.

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