General Whale Information:
Cetaceans (whales, dolphins, porpoises) are divided into two suborders:
- The Baleen Whales are characterized by baleen, a sieve-like structure in the upper jaw made of keratin, which they use to filter plankton from the water. They are the largest species of whale.
- The Toothed Whales who have teeth and prey on fish, squid, or both.
The term whale can refer to all cetaceans, to just the larger ones, or only to members of particular families within the order Cetacea. The term generally refers to all cetaceans that are not dolphins or porpoises. All whales, dolphins and porpoises are descendants of land-living mammals, most likely of the Artriodactyl order . They entered the water roughly 50 million years ago.
Male whales are called bulls, females are called cows, and the young whales are called calves.
Whales cannot fall asleep for too long because they need to conscious to breathe and stay alive. Only one hemisphere of their brains sleeps at a time and it is thought that they sleep around eight hours a day; so, they still get the rest they need.
Whales communicated using lyrical sounds. They have been known to generate about 20,000 acoustic watts of sound at 163 decibels. Whales also have very acute hearing with well developed section of brain which govern this function, which gives them advanced echo-location capacities analogous to sonar, like bats.
Females give birth to a single calf. Nursing time is long (more than one year in many species), which is associated with a strong bond between mother and young. In most whales reproductive maturity occurs late, typically at seven to ten years. This strategy of reproduction spawns few offspring, but provides each with a high rate of survival. Most whales do not maintain fixed partnerships during mating; in many species the females have several mates each season. At birth the newborn is delivered tail-first, so the risk of drowning is minimized. Whale mothers nurse the young by actively squirting the fatty milk into their mouths, milk very similar to cow's milk. Biologists compare the consistency of whale milk to cottage cheese; it must be thick, or else it will dissipate into the surrounding water.
Whales have the largest brain of any animal. The western world views whales as highly intelligent animals. Whales have faced no such environmental stimuli to brain evolution. Whales live in an unchanging and benign environment with few natural predators. Their sole adaptation to their marine environment has been increasing size. The whale's lifestyle consists of swimming and eating, tasks which fish perform perfectly competently with very small brains in relative term. From an evolutionary point of view, there is no reason for whales to have evolved intelligence, since their survival does not require them to perform any tasks for which intelligence is necessary.
Types of Whales:
- Length of an adult: 40-50 feet
- Weight: 79,000 lbs
- Interestingly enough, females tend to be larger in size than males.
- Humpbacks are well known for breaching and their whale songs; because of this they are a popular sight on whale watching trips. (To see our own footage of humpbacks, check out our Whale Footage.)
- Location: Humpbacks can be found in all major oceans
- Length of an adult: 22-24 feet
- Weight: 4-5 tons
- Gestation Period: 10 months, newborns nurse for five months.
- Minke Whales can be spotted by their unique white band on each flipper.
- Minkes live for 30-50 years.
- Length of an adult: 62-66 feet
- Weight: estimated as 154,000 lbs
- Gestation Period: 11 months to one year, newborns nurse for up to seven months.
- Fin Whales reach maturity between 25 and 30 years and have been known to live for up to 94 years; however, females reach sexual maturity between 3 and 12 years.
- Location: Fin Whales, like the Humpbacks, are found in all the world's major oceans.
- Length of an adult: 98 feet
- Weight: 100 tons
- Believed to be the largest animal to have ever lived on Earth.
- Blue Whales were hunted almost to extinction in the early twentieth century. In 2002 a report estimated there were 5,000 to 12,000 Blue Whales worldwide
- There have been at least 11 documented cases of Blue/Fin Whale hybrid adults in the wild
- A Blue Whale's tongue is about the size of an elephant. It's estimated that about 50 adult humans could stand in its mouth!