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Facts about whales

Whale classification

Breeding patterns of whales

Whale migration

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Whales can be classified in 2 basic suborders
  • Baleen Whales
    • Right Whales
    • Pygmy Right Whales
    • Grey Whales
    • Rorquals (BLue whale, Fin whale, Humpback, etc)
  • Toothed Whales
    • Sperm Whales
    • White Whales
    • Beaked Whales
    • Dolphins, Pilot Whales and Killer Whales
    • Porpoises
    • River Dolphins
    • Amazon River Dolphin
    • Chinese River Dolphin
Baleen whales baleen

Baleen whales are sometimes called "mustached whales." The name refers to the series of baleen plates in gums along each side of the whale's upper jaw. They are triangular and arranged like teeth in a comb. The inner edge is frayed, and the fringes form a dense mat inside the mouth.

Baleen is made mostly of keratin, a substance found in our fingernails and hair.

Baleen whales, some of which are the largest animals to have ever lived on earth, eat some of the smallest, most abundant life in the oceans: plankton. Some baleen whales also eat small schooling fishes, and a variety of crustaceans such as krill, copepods, and amphipods.

Baleen whales use baleen to strain food from the water. Some feed by swimming with their mouths wide open. Others open their mouths and take in huge amounts of water. When they dose their mouths, the water is forced out through the baleen, and food gets trapped in the fringe mat. After all the water is gone, the whale swallows its meal.

Baleen whales tend to be solitary animals, traveling alone or in small groups. They have two blowholes. The largest baleen whale is the blue whale; it reaches lengths of 27.5 m (90 ft.). The pygmy right whale, at a maximum length of 6.4 m (21 ft.), is the smallest. Female baleen whales are larger than males.

Toothed whales

There are about 65 different species of toothed whales. Toothed whales, including all dolphins and porpoises, have teeth, only one blowhole (baleen whales have two) and are generally smaller than most baleen whales. The only toothed whale longer than 13 metres is the sperm whale (they can measure up to 18 metres).

Toothed whales are hunters. They find, chase and then capture prey (fish, squid, crabs, starfish, and other ocean creatures) with their teeth. Once captured, the prey is swallowed whole.

Toothed whales find their food using echolocation. It works as a navigation system and can detect objects, such as fish, in the water. The whale sends out signals, called “ultrasounds” from its nasal passage. The signals bounce or “echo” off objects, then return to the whale, giving a clear “sound-picture” of the objects’ size, shape and location.

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