Whales are some of the most fascinating creatures on Earth. There are many species of whales, and some of them can be found even in the Mediterranean – Adriatic.
Whales belong to a group of cetaceans, including dolphins and porpoises. They are mammals, breathe air and nurse their young with milk.
1) Whales may appear to be very similar to fish, but that is not the case.
In fact, whales breathe oxygen from the air into their lungs rather than extracting it from the water. Another difference is that whales are warm-blooded animals, while fish are cold-blooded. There are also many differences in appearance between whales and fish.
Whales have smooth skin, which is designed to better slip through the water, unlike the scales on a fish’s skin. Whales’ eyes can’t see underwater, and a fish’s can, but they can see better than in the air.
2) Whales are some of the largest animals on Earth.
The most giant whales are blue whales, weighing up to 330 pounds and measuring more than 100 feet long. The smallest whales are the pygmy sperm whales, which average 7 feet in length.
3) The front and back of a whale’s body are very different from each other.
The most significant part of the whale is its enormous head, which makes up about one-quarter to one-third of its entire body length. Behind its blowholes on top of the head, a whale has two nostrils that lead to its lungs.
The nostrils have muscular openings located high on the mouth’s hard palate so whales can close them when diving.
Because whales swim with their heads facing forward, they must see where they are going! A series of thin bones surrounds and protects each eye. The eyes of whales are proportionately enormous, but they are tiny compared to the size of their skull.
Whales’ backbones also continue into their upper lips.
They have two blowholes located on top of the head. Blowholes are openings that allow whales to breathe when coming up for air after deep dives. A whale’s throat grooves point forward and connect to the windpipe, which directs air into the lungs.
4) Whale mouths sit underneath their bodies and face downward.
The reason whales do not have visible teeth is that they use suction to eat and take in water (and small fish) instead of biting and chewing their food as we do.
They then use their tongues to push the water out through baleen plates.
Baleen is a horny, fringed material that hangs down from the upper jaw and acts like teeth to filter small animals such as plankton, krill, small fish, shrimp, etc.
Whales use throat grooves to expand when taking in food and water.
5) Whales are powerful swimmers.
Some whales can swim up to 28 miles per hour, but they usually move much more slowly, around 10–12 miles per hour. Whales exhale (breath out) before making deep dives to catch fish and other prey.
The tail flukes provide the thrust that whales need to swim through water. When whales move, their tails beat up and down. The fluked tail of a whale is horizontal to its body.
6) Whales can see well in air and water!
Whales have huge eyes that appear similar to humans, but they are not as mobile.
They cannot rotate or focus as ours do; instead, whales use only one eye to focus on objects at a time. A whale’s vision is somewhat limited because it has a small area of rods and cones (photoreceptors that respond to light.)
7) Whales have a four-chambered heart.
Even though whales are mammals, their hearts do not have valves inside them.
This means that the blood can flow in two directions through the heart, making it easier for the whale to circulate oxygenated blood. This is important to hold their breath while diving deep underwater.
8) Some whales sing songs that can be heard for miles.
Humpback whales make the loudest and longest songs in the world. They can be heard for many miles below or above water!
A whale’s song is a series of moans, howls, grunts, and other sounds that may last up to 30 minutes.
The humpback whale can sing several different songs at once so that the sound of one music does not drown out another. Scientists still don’t know why whales sing!
9) Whales can live for up to 200 years!
The oldest known whale was a female bowhead whale over 211 years old when whalers killed her in the Arctic Ocean in 2006. Scientists study whales to learn more about their life spans, feeding habits, reproduction, and other aspects of their biology.
10) Some whales breach (jump entirely out of the water).
Breaching is a behavior that humpback whales do pretty often. Scientists are still not sure why whales breach, but several theories exist.
Some people think that the whales better understand their surroundings, while others believe they communicate with other whales.
Another theory suggests that the whales breach because they are happy! No one knows why whales breach, but it is definitely a fantastic sight to see.
11) Whales are air-breathing mammals.
When a whale dives underwater, it takes a deep breath before going down.
When the whale comes up for another breath of air, some water may get caught in its long throat hairs called baleen plates. The whale uses its tongue to push out the extra water to breathe more easily.
12) Whales are not born with the ability to swim.
When whales are babies or calves, they cannot swim independently. Baby whales must learn to swim by watching adults in their family group. A mother whale will teach her baby to swim by nudging it with her body or flippers.
13) Whales have about 1-2 gallons of blood in their bodies.
Most vertebrates have 1 gallon of blood, but whales have about 2 gallons. This is because the heart must pump enough blood to send nutrients and oxygen throughout the whale’s giant body.
14) Whales are not the only animals that sing.
Birds, frogs, and even crickets make noise by singing. Singing is a way of communicating with other members of the species.
Some scientists believe that whales sing to communicate with each other, but we still don’t know why they do it!
15) Whales do not eat meat!
Whales are actually carnivores, but they only eat small fish. Whales mostly eat herring, mackerel, and sardines.
To catch their prey, whales use echolocation or sound waves to find the fish in the water.
16) Some whales make loud sounds called “whale songs.”
A whale song is an unusual sound that some whales make. It can be long, repetitive low notes that last for hours. Scientists still do not know why the whales make these sounds or what purpose they serve.
17) Male humpback whales usually sing only one song at a time.
Each male humpback whale has its own unique song. Some scientists think that the whales sing their songs to attract mates or defend their territory.
18) A group of whales is called a pod.
A pod can be made up of any type of whale, but it usually refers to a group of dolphins or porpoises. When people talk about whales, they may use pod or group.
19) Whales have a layer of fat called blubber to help them stay warm in cold water.
Blubber can be up to 2 inches thick! This thick skin helps insulate the whale’s body heat. Whales are mammals, and they need to stay warm in cold water, just like we do.
20) A baby whale is called calves.
Calves are born after a gestation period (pregnancy) of about 11 months. Calves nurse from their mothers for about 6 months, but they start to eat solid food at about 3 months old.
21) Whales are not as fat as you might think!
Whales have thick layers of fat and many muscles underneath, but they don’t have much body fat. This is why whales look skinny when they are out of water.
22) Some whales sleep with one eye open!
This is called unihemispheric slow-wave sleep. The whale closes one eye and keeps the other open, so it can watch for predators, stay near its group, and breathe regularly.
While one side of the brain sleeps, the other side stays awake and controls the breathing muscles.
23) Whales don’t have to surface to breathe!
Whales can stay underwater for as long as 45 minutes without coming up for air. A whale has two blowholes on top of its head, but these are not used like our noses.
Instead, whales spout (breathe out) water from their blowholes to get rid of the saltwater they have swallowed.
24) Whales are gentle giants!
Whales may be big and powerful but gentle and curious animals. They often approach boats and divers to check them out. Some whales even seem to enjoy playing with humans!
25) The humpback whale is the most famous!
The humpback whale is a giant, black and white whale that lives in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It is known for its loud songs and playful behavior. Humpback whales are endangered, so it is essential to protect them.
26) Whales are some of the most intelligent animals on Earth!
Whales are brilliant animals. They can learn new things quickly and remember them for a long time. Scientists are still learning about the intelligence of whales, but it is clear that they are much brighter than we thought!
So there you have it! Some interesting facts about whales. Now you know why they are such amazing creatures.