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Whale Facts: Did you know whales are marine mammals that belong to the Order Cetacea? Cetaceans include all whales, dolphins, and porpoises, and are found in every single ocean on the planet.
Worldwide, there are more than 80 species of whales, dolphins, and porpoise, and are divided between two groups or Suborders, Mysticeti and Odontoceti. The Mysticetes include the baleen whales, while the Odontocetes include the toothed whales, dolphins, and porpoises.
The Blue, Fin, Sei, Bryde’s, North Atlantic right, North Pacific right, Southern right, minke, Antarctic minke, Humpback, Gray Whale, Bowhead, and Sperm Whales are referred to as the “Great Whales.”
Of these large whales, more than half are classified as endangered, or vulnerable. Cetaceans face a variety of threats, most of which are a direct result of human activities.
Prefer to watch and learn? Check out this insightful 4min video from Amazing Earth.
The humpback whale reaches lengths up to 60 feet, and weighs between 40 and 50 tons. It has a dark, almost black body with varying degrees of white on the underside of its body and tail fluke.
The enormous pectoral fins of the humpback can reach 15 feet in length and are often used to “slap” the water. They are widely distributed around the globe, wintering in warmer latitudes and feeding in Arctic and Antarctic regions during the polar summer months. Learn more about humpback whales here.
Orcas, or killer whales, are not actually whales but the largest member of the dolphin family Delphinidae. They first got their name from sailors who witnessed them attacking large whales. Orcas are live in tight social groups, hunting cooperatively. They can reach lengths of 30 feet and weigh 8 to 9 tons.
Males are larger than females and have an enormous dorsal fin that can stand 6 feet tall when adult. Different populations of orcas have specialized diets, hunting techniques, and dialects in which they communicate with one another which are passed down through generations. Learn more about orcas here.
Populations of gray whales call the North Pacific home. In the birthing lagoons of Baja California, Mexico, Gray Whales are known for their expressively “friendly” behavior. As for their diet, they are filter feeders, using baleen (large plates made of keratin which hang from their upper jaw) to strain organisms directly from the water.
Although gray whales eat some of the ocean’s tiniest creatures, they grow to lengths of 35-45 feet, and can weigh 30-40 tons! Their predictable movements and curious nature have made them a favorite for whale watchers. Learn more about gray whales here.
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