Have you ever gone whale watching? Whales are an incredible animal. They live their entire lives in ocean waters. Their enormous size catches our attention and makes us want to learn more about them. Read these interesting facts about whales to learn more.
Baleen and Toothed Whales
There are two basic kinds of whales, baleen whales and toothed whales. There are 15 species of baleen whales and 76 species of whales that are toothed whales.
Baleen whales have baleen plates in their mouth along their upper jaw that help them filter their food such as small fish like krill. The plates look like brushes, but are the texture of bones or horns. Once they filter enough food, they swallow the fish whole. They have two nostrils or blow holes. Common species of baleen whale include blue whales, humpback whales, right whale, gray whale, and the sei whale.
The toothed whale has sharp teeth that it uses to eat its food. Unlike baleen whales, toothed whales have one nostril or blow hole. Toothed whales tend to be smaller than baleen whales. Sperm whales, killer whales, beluga whales, beaked whales and pilot whales are all a part of the toothed whale species.
Whales are the largest animals on Earth. Even though they are aquatic animals they are actually warm blooded mammals. They are intelligent animals that can be found in the world’s oceans. Whales have four fins. They have two pectoral fins (like arms), a caudal fin (their tail), and a small dorsal fin. However, not every type of whale has a dorsal fin. The sperm whale and beluga whale do not have a dorsal fin.
What Whales Eat
Whales are at the top of the food chain. That means there isn’t anything that hunts whales (except humans). They eat thousands of pounds of food each day. Their food source is fish, krill, plankton, and algae. Most whale species prefer smaller fish, but the sperm whale likes to eat larger fish. Orca whales have been known to eat small animals like a sea lion. Whales eat during the Summer to gain blubber to prepare for colder water in the Winter. Blubber is the fat that keeps them warm. Whales do not eat during migration. They just swim and rest.
How Do Whales Breathe
Whales have lungs like we do and breathe oxygen. They do not have gills like fish that allow them to breathe under water. Instead, they have a blow hole that is like their nostril. The blow hole is on the top of their heads. They move to the surface of the ocean to breathe. On average, whales can hold their breath for about an hour before they need to come back to the surface. They sleep at the surface of the water so that they can breathe.
Whales are mammals so the female whale will carry the baby inside of her just like a human. They produce milk to feed their babies. The baby whale stays with its mom for 6 to 7 months in the open sea.
Whale hunting used to be a popular industry. Whales would be hunted for their meat and blubber. Blubber from a whale turns into whale oil and is used in different products that we use every day like soap and margarine. Because of whale hunting, many types of whales have become an endangered species. Whale conservation groups are on a mission to protect the whales and get them off of the endangered list.
Whales communicate with each other. They are actually the loudest animals in the world. Some are as loud as an airplane. They use whale songs to communicate. Each type of whale makes a different type of sound like whistles, groans, moans, or humming. Sound travels far in water. Not only do they use sounds to communicate to each other, but they use their sense of hearing to avoid bumping into things or to sense what is near. That is called echolocation.
Whales migrate long distances. They travel thousands of miles each year. Some whales migrate alone and others in small groups. When they migrate, they are in search of food and warmer waters to breed and have babies.
- The age of a whale can be figured out by counting the rings in its ear wax.
- The largest whale is the blue whale. It can grow 70-90 feet long!
- The bowhead whale is the oldest whale species.
- A group of whales is called a pod. The pod is like their family.
- A whale’s heart is the size of a small car. That’s huge!