Whales belong to the order cetacea, which includes whales, dolphins and porpoises. Whales can be categorized into two sub-categories: baleen and toothed whales. Baleen whales have a comb-like fringe, called a baleen, on the upper jaw, which is used to filter plankton, as well as small fish and crustaceans. They are the largest species of whale. Toothed whales have teeth and prey on fish, squid, other whales and marine mammals. They sense their surrounding environment through echolocation.
Pictures of whales-
Facts about Whales:
Length: Varies; up to 110 feet long.
Weight: Varies; up to 150 tons.
Lifespan: Generally 20-40 years, but can live up to 80 years; varies with each species.
Like all mammals, whales breathe air into lungs, are warm-blooded, feed their young milk and have some (although very little) hair. Their bodies resemble the streamlined form of a fish, while the forelimbs or flippers are paddle-shaped. The tail fins, or flukes, support whales to propel themselves through the water. Most species of whale have a fin on their backs known as a dorsal fin.
Do You Know that...
Whales are mammals, and as such, they have hair—though very little of it!
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. Baleen whales have two blowholes, while toothed whales have one.
Many whales, especially baleen whales, tend to migrate long distances from their cold-water feeding grounds to warm-water breeding grounds each year. 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.
Whales live in all of the world's oceans, though their specific range varies by species.
The diet of whales depends on their species; it can range from microscopic plankton to large marine mammals.
Main article: Whale vocalization
Whale vocalization is likely to serve several purposes. Some species, such as the humpback whale, communicate using melodic sounds, known as whale song. These sounds may be extremely loud, depending on the species. Humpback whales only have been heard making while toothed whales use sonar that may generate up to 20,000 watts of sound (+73 dBm or +43 dBw) and be heard for many miles away.
Purpose of whale-created sounds-
While the complex sounds of the humpback whale (and some blue whales) are believed to be primarily used in sexual selection. Toothed whales are capable of using echolocation to detect the size and nature of objects, this capability is never observed in baleen whales.
Did You Know?
The Blue Whale is the largest known mammal that has ever lived, and the largest living animal, at up to 110 feet long and 150 tons.
Most whales are very active in the water. They jump high, or breach, out of the water and land back in the water. They also thrust their tails out of the water and slap the water's surface, which is believed to be a warning of danger nearby. Whales also communicate with each other using lyrical sounds.
Whales breathe air by coming to the water's surface, they are alert breathers, mean of say is that they decide when to breathe. All mammals sleep, including whales, but they cannot go into a deep sleep for a long period.
Mating Season:Varies depending on the species.
Gestation: 9-15 months, depending on the species.
Number of offspring: 1 calf.
Nursing time is long (more than one year for many species), which is associated with a strong bond between mother and young.
Threats to Whales
Climate change affected the life of marine creatures, and whales are certainly not exception. Rising sea level of sea will make them more vulnerable. Arctic and Antarctic whale habitat faces a particular threat from climate change. Whale food sources will also face challenges, such as a decline in krill population, which is eaten by many large whale species.
Questions & Answers about whales-
Q1. Which is the biggest whale?
Ans. The blue whale is the largest animal ever to have lived on Earth; it is larger than any of the dinosaurs.
The biggest blue whale was a female in the Antarctic Ocean that was 30.5 m long (more than 3.5 times the length of a double-decker bus and as long as a Boeing 737 plane) weighted around 144 tonnes (almost equal to 2,000 men). The tongue alone of a blue whale can weigh as much as an elephant and an entire football team can stand on it! The heart of a blue whale is about the size of a VW Beetle car and weight up to 450 kg's.
Q2. How big is the calf of a blue whale?
Ans. Blue whales are pregnant for 10-12 months. The newborn calf is about 7.5 m long and weighs about 5.5 – 7.3 tonnes. A baby blue whale drinks about 225 litres (about enough to fill a bath) of its mother’s fat-laden milk (it is 40-50% fat) a day, gaining 3.7 kilograms an hour, until at age 8 months they are 15 m long and 22.5 tonnes! The mother and calf may stay together for a year or longer, until the calf is about 13 m long. Blue whales reach maturity at 10-15 years.
Q3. Which whale is the deepest diver?
Ans. A Cuvier's beaked whale has been recorded to dive to a depth of 3km for over 2 hours.
Sperm whales are also very good divers. Adults can stay underwater for almost 2 hours and dive to depths of 2,000 mt. or more. They eat squid, which live very deep in the ocean, so sperm whales have to dive down into the deepest parts of the sea to catch them.
Q4. Which whale has the biggest brain?
Ans. The sperm whale’s huge head, which is up to a third of its overall body length, houses the heaviest brain in the animal kingdom - up to 9kg.
Q5. Which whale makes the loudest sound?
Ans. Beluga whales are known as the "canaries of the sea" because they make chirping sounds like the little yellow birds.
Blue whales make the loudest sound on Earth! Their call reaches levels up to 188 decibels and can be heard hundreds of miles away. The sound of blue whale is louder than a jet, which reaches only 140 decibels. As we know that sounds over 120-130 decibels are painful to human ears.
DISCLAIMER: JPL and its affiliates shall have no liability for any views, thoughts and comments expressed on this article.