Whales

web-iss022-e-6674The Earth is covered by vast oceans that are the home for the largest animals that have ever lived
– the whales.

Whales are mammals like us that breathe air, give birth to live young and are often highly social and intelligent creatures. Unlike us they are perfectly adapted to living in the ocean. 

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A Humpback Whale Calve

We use the term whales to describe all types of marine mammals from the order Cetacea, this includes all species of Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises. There are two distinct suborders of whales, the Mysticeti (Baleen whales) and the Odontoceti (toothed whales).

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A Dusky Dolphin 

The Mysticeti (Baleen) Whales
The Baleen whales are distinct from the toothed whales because instead of teeth the have large baleen plates. Baleen whales eat by taking a large mouthful of water and food such as Krill and fish. They then use their tongue to push the water back out of their mouth through the baleen plates which act like a large hairy comb filtering out the food. The Baleen plates are made from Keratin like our fingernails and hair.

Humpback, Sothern Right and Blue are all species of Baleen whales. Blue whales are the largest animals to have ever lived.

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A Southern Right Whale

The Odontoceti (Toothed) Whales
The toothed whales are characterized by having teeth rather than Baleen and include whale, dolphin and porpoise species.

Generally they are smaller in size (except the Sperm) than the Baleen whales, have a single blow hole rather than the two found in Baleen whales and have lost their vocal cords and saliva glands. They have an organ in their heads called the Melon which they use to focus sound waves produced in their blowhole system.

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An Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin

Most famous of the tooth whales are the Sperm Whales. Sperm whale oil or Spermaceti which is devoid of taste or smell was prized for its use in cosmetics, leatherwork and as lubricants. It can safely be said that the early part of the industrial revolution rode on whale oil before they were replaced by petroleum products.

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A Sperm Whale

They are almost forty different species of Dolphin from the smallest Maui’s Dolphin at only 1.2 meters to the largest the Orca at 9.5 meters. Yes the Orca or Killer Whale is actually the largest Dolphin species. There are several species described as whales but which are in fact genetically Dolphins such as Pygmy and False Killer Whales, Melon Headed whale and Pilot whales.

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A Dusky Dolphin

Whale Information Pages

Whales In Detail

Whale Behaviours

 

The Mysticeti (Baleen) Whales

Humpback Whales

Southern Right Whales

Blue Whales

Minke Whales

 

The Odontoceti (Toothed) Whales

Sperm Whales

Bottlenose Dolphin