Put simply, Whales are large, intelligent, warmblooded, aquatic mammals. They breathe air through a
blowhole and into their lungs - unlike fish who breathe using gills. Whales have sleek, streamlined bodies that move easily through the water. They are the only mammals, other than the manatee (seacows), that live their entire lives in the water, and the only mammals that have adapted to life in the open oceans. Whales also give birth to live young.
The word 'Whale' is the common name for various marine mammals of the order Cetacea. The term whale sometimes refers to all cetaceans, but more often than not it excludes dolphins and porpoises, which belong to suborder Odontoceti (toothed whales). This suborder also includes the sperm whale, killer whale, pilot whale, and beluga whale.
The other Cetacean suborder Mysticeti (baleen whales) are filter feeders that eat small organisms caught by straining seawater through a comblike structure found in the mouth called baleen. This suborder includes the blue whale, the humpback whale, the bowhead whale and the minke whale. All Cetacea have forelimbs modified as fins, a tail with horizontal flukes, and nasal openings (blowholes) on top of the head.
Whales collectively inhabit all the world's oceans and number in the millions, with annual population growth rate estimates for various species ranging from 3% to 13%. For centuries, whales have been hunted for meat and as a source of raw materials. By the middle of the 20th century, however, industrial whaling had left many species seriously endangered, leading to the end of whaling in all but a few countries.
It is estimated that the great artist and visionary inventor DaVinci had an IQ of 158. Cetacean intelligence is usually gauged by allometric analysis of brain size compared to body weight.
1. Sperm Whales have the largest brain mass of any living animal, weighing in at 7.8 kg where as a male adult human brain weighs, at the most 1.4 kg.
2. The whales form of song is also the most complex even more so than birds.
3. In order to make sure that whales perform the basic functions to breathe, only one half of their brain will sleep at a time. This is the only way that they are able to get the amount of rest that they need and still take care of this function that is necessary for their bodies to survive.
4. Unlike us, whales are only able to sleep for short periods of time because they have to remember to go to the surface for air as needed.
5. Even though they spend their entire lives under water, whales cannot breath under water. Like us, whales breathe by taking in air from the atmosphere through their blow-hole.
6. Whales can swim at a rate of about 30 miles per hour. However, they appear much slower because they they spend most of their time gliding around in the water.
7. You would think that whales would have entirely smooth bodies but they don't. They do have hair but it very thin and very light so unless you are seeing one up close you wouldn't see any at all.
8. Whales are warm blooded mammals so they have to keep a high body temperature. Since they don’t have much hair they rely on layers of fat called blubber. You will find that the younger whales have more hair than the adults. As a baby gets older it will develop more blubber and then the hair will start to disappear.
9. Whales can grow extremely large. In fact, the Blue Whale is the biggest creature that has ever lived, reaching a length of up to 94! The smallest whale is the Dwarf Sperm Whale. It is only about 8 feet long.
The blue whale
The blue whale - Balaenoptera musculus is a marine mammal belonging to the suborder of baleen whales called Mysticetiis arguably the most impressive creature to live or have ever lived on this planet! At 30 metres (98 ft) in length and 180 metric tons or more in weight, it is in fact the largest animal ever known to have existed!
Long and slender, the blue whale's body can be various shades of bluish-grey dorsally and somewhat lighter underneath.
There are at least three distinct subspecies: B. m. musculus of the North Atlantic and North Pacific, B. m. intermedia of the Southern Ocean and B. m. brevicauda (also known as the pygmy blue whale) found in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean. B. m. indica, found in the Indian Ocean, may be another subspecies.
Blue Whale Habitat
Although blue whales should be able to roam the ocean freely, they are in fact tied to certain areas. This is because there are only a few places in the world - notably the Arctic and Antarctic - where enough planktonic food is available to sustain them.
However, the winter freezes up the waters in these areas forcing breeding whales to migrate each year to the warm waters of the tropics. Here the scarcity of plankton forces them to mainly live off their blubber.
Mating takes place in the warm waters of the tropics where the young are also born. Having only a thin layer of blubber, the young would be unable to survive in colder waters. At birth they measure about 7 metres and weigh approximately 7250 kg.
The mother may well be helped by other females to nudge the new born calf to the surface so that it can take its first breath of air. The baby is suckled in the water, drinking more than 600 litres of milk each day until it is seven months old and over 15 metres in length. By this time its baleen is developing. so that it can catch its own food.
So, just what does a Blue Whale eat?
The species of copepod zooplankton eaten by blue whales will vary from ocean to ocean. In the North Atlantic, Meganyctiphanes norvegica, Thysanoessa raschii, Thysanoessa inermis and Thysanoessa longicaudata are the usual food, while in the North Pacific, Euphausia pacifica, Thysanoessa inermis, Thysanoessa longipes, Thysanoessa spinifera, Nyctiphanes symplex and Nematoscelis megalops are takenn. Then, in the Antarctic, blue whales eat Euphausia superba, Euphausia crystallorophias and Euphausia valentin.
Blue Whales and Krill
Because krill move through the ocean levels, blue whales typically feed at depths of more than 100 metres (330 ft) during the day and only surface-feed at night. Dive times are typically 10 minutes when feeding, though dives of up to 20 minutes are common. The longest recorded dive is 36 minutes.
The blue whale feeds by lunging forward at groups of krill, taking the animals and a large quantity of water into its mouth. The water is then squeezed out through the baleen plates by pressure from the ventral pouch and tongue. Once the mouth is clear of water, the remaining krill, unable to pass through the plates, are swallowed. The blue whale also incidentally consumes small fish, crustaceans and squid caught up with krill.
The Future for Blue Whales
A 2002 report estimated there were 5,000 to 12,000 blue whales worldwide, located in at least five groups. More recent research into the Pygmy subspecies suggests this may be an underestimate. Before whaling, the largest population was in the Antarctic, numbering approximately 239,000 (range 202,000 to 311,000). There remain only much smaller (around 2,000) concentrations in each of the North-East Pacific, Antarctic, and Indian Ocean groups. There are two more groups in the North Atlantic, and at least two in the Southern Hemisphere.
Blue Whale Facts
The biggest male blue whale ever recorded was 31 metres long. Females are even better! The heaviest recorded weight is 178,000kg.
The blue whale was known as 'sulphur bottom' to English sailors because in northern waters it picked up greenish-yellow diatoms (algae) that disguised its colour.
The 'whalebone' onced used for ladies' corsets was the baleen, rather than the bone of whales.
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Photo care of http://zonabg.info/History.60_65/7536.Otkriha-ogromen-kit-w-Temza/ and http://www.saawinternational.org/whaling.htm
Based on an article by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whale