Put simply, Whales are large, intelligent, warm blooded, 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 (sea cows), 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 range in size from the blue whale, the largest animal known to have ever existed at 30 m (98 ft) and 180 tonnes (180 long tons; 200 short tons), to various pygmy species, such as the pygmy sperm whale at 3.5 m (11 ft).

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.

Whales are also extremely intelligent. In fact, it has been estimated that the average Beluga whale has an IQ of 155! To give to a comparative idea in human terms, that would equate to a genius.

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.

Whale facts

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 underwater, whales cannot breathe under water. Like us,  whales breathe by taking in air from the atmosphere through their blowhole.

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 is 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 ft! The smallest whale is the Dwarf Sperm Whale. It is only about 8 feet long.

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