There are many kinds of whales, ranging in size from a 5-foot (1.5-m) harbor dolphin to a blue whale, which may reach a length of more than 100 feet (30 m). Whales are found in all seas as well as many coastal waters and the largest whales may weigh up to 140 tons.
What is the common name given to the two wings on a whale’s tail fin?
Whales swim with their powerful tail, which ends in a pair of horizontal flukes that bend as the tail moves up and down. The tail and flukes drive this animal through the water at great speeds that are especially surprising for a whale’s huge size.
What portion of a whale’s total body length is its tail?
A whale has a head, body and tail, but because of its sleek form it's hard to tell where one part ends and the next begins. The tail of a whale accounts for one third of its body length.
What is an obvious reason that scientists believe whales were once land-based animals?
Fossils have been found of whale-like creatures with tiny legs that could not support their weight and modern whales still have vestigial hind legs buried in their flesh. Some studies conclude that whales were once four-legged animals with hooves.
What is the name given to a method employed by many whales to find prey and locate obstacles in the water using sound waves?
Echolocation is the process where a whale emits a series of clicks from its mouth or from organs in its head, the sound waves radiate out in the water. When the sound waves reach another animal or some obstacle, they bounce off and travel back to a whales ears, the whale calculates the time this takes to find the distance and direction of a target.
What is the behavior called when whales slap the water with their tails?
Whales sometimes slap the water with their tails and it produces a tremendous splash. This stunt is called lobtailing and experts make guesses that they do it for mating purposes, communication, a warning or just plain fun. No one really knows for sure.
A whale is an oxygen-breathing mammal, so how does it breathe when it spends most of its time underwater.
To breathe in air a whale will surface, flex a muscle to open its blowhole at the top of its head and then inhale. When the whale relaxes muscle, the blowhole closes so it can submerge again and this all happens very quickly.
What is it that allows whales to eat while submerged without drowning?
Whales have lungs and breathe air -- just like other mammals -- but their windpipes are not connected to their mouths.
Why do whales squirt seawater out of their blowholes, if their blowholes are always closed during submersion?
The spout that we see is caused by exhaled air that is warmer than the surrounding air at the water's surface. As it shoots out the ejected air rapidly cools and the water vapor in the exhaled air immediately condenses into a liquid, giving the appearance that it is water spraying.
When an experienced whale watcher observes a waterspout, what can they tell about the whale that created it?
Since each species of whale has a uniquely shaped blowhole, they also have a distinctive spout shape. Experienced whale-watchers can use the spout shape to identify any particular species without any other clues.
Into how many groups do scientists divide whales?
Scientists divide whales into two groups. There are baleen whales and toothed whales.
Non-toothed whales have developed something called a baleen to allow them to catch their food. What is a baleen?
A baleen is a wide plate in a whale's mouth formed with hundreds of long blades made from the same material as our fingernails, called keratin. The blades are up to seven feet long and form a sieve that the whale uses to filter small animals such as krill, plankton or small fish from seawater.
What do whales drink?
Whales get their water from the food they eat, just like all marine mammals. Whales cannot drink salt water, as it causes dehydration in tissue.
What do whales do to stay hydrated if they do not have food readably available from which to derive water?
Whales actually drink the water they need from their stored up blubber when food is not plentiful enough to provide their hydration needs. A thin whale not only risks starvation but also could die from thirst.
What is the round-trip distance of the longest migration of a mammal, which is completed by a gray whale?
Gray whales migrate all the way from the Bering and Chukchi Seas in the Arctic to southern California. It is the longest migration of any mammal, with a round-trip distance of some 10,000 miles (16,000 km).
What is another popular name that blue whales are affectionately called?
The name sulfur bottom comes from the fact that the underside of the blue whale commonly becomes coated with yellowish microscopic algae. Blue whales swim at a top speed of about 30 mph (48 kph) but they still cannot shake off that algae or the name.
How much of the tiny shrimp like krill can an average blue whale consume during the summer feeding season?
During the summer feeding season, a blue whale may devour over 10,000 pounds (4,536 kilograms) of krill a day.
Do whales have good eyesight?
Blue whales and other baleen whales have good eyesight, but unlike humans the baleen whales have eyes that are flattened in the front. This eye shape is better for seeing in a dim, underwater habitat. Toothed whales do not see well at all.
Are killer whales dangerous to humans, especially swimmers or divers?
Killer whales or orcas are simply huge dolphins and usually act like dolphins, showing affection to humans and even saving humans from shark attacks. Like any dolphin, killer whales will become agitated and annoyed if humans overdo playful roughhousing and can give you a nasty time.
About how much weight can mother blue whales lose while nursing their infant?
A mother blue whale may lose as much as 100,000 pounds (45,400 kilograms), or a third of her body weight, while nursing. Baby blue whales consume up to 50 gallons (189 L) of milk every day and grow by as much as 10 pounds (4.54 kg) every hour.
Whales are among the most intelligent mammals known to man and most whales even appear to enjoy being in the company of human beings. Take our quiz to learn more about this amazing mammal.
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