Category: 

What is a Whale?

Humpback whales are plankton eaters.
Whales live in the ocean and are mammals.
The blue whale is the world's largest animal.
The Cetacea order also includes dolphins.
Baleen whales feed on plankton (such as the water-flea plankton) , krill, and microscopic crustaceans.
Sperm whales are the largest carnivores alive.
Article Details
  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Images By: Apfelweile, Temistocle Lucarelli, Grrlscientist, Irinano, Crimson, Catmando
  • Last Modified Date: 30 June 2015
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2015
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
It takes 248 years for Pluto to orbit the sun, so since 1930, it has completed less than a third of its orbit.  more...

July 3 ,  1884 :  Dow Jones published the first stock average.  more...

A whale is a marine mammal in the order Cetacea, which also includes dolphins and porpoises. Technically, the term could be used to refer to any animal in this biological order, but by convention, it is reserved for particularly large representatives of the order. These animals can be found in all the oceans of the world, migrating to different regions for breeding and feeding, and the animals hold a popular mystique with humans, due to their impressive size and striking behaviors.

There are two basic types of whale. Toothed species have massive jaws and teeth for eating a varied diet of marine animals. Baleen whales are filter feeders, eating plankton and other small organisms. Baleen resembles a comb, and is made from keratin, the same tough fiber which makes up human hair and nails. Both types have horizontal split flukes, or tails, and front flippers. In addition, the animal has a blowhole to breathe through at the top of its head.

Unlike most animals, a whale decides when it should breathe. Some species are capable of remaining submerged for up to an hour before needing to resurface for fresh air. The animals expel water from the surface of their blowholes when they are preparing to breathe, leading to distinctive “spouts” which are used to spot the submerged mammals. Each species has a distinctive spout, allowing people to determine what species they are seeing.

Ad

There are numerous recognized species of whale, including grey, sperm, right, and humpback whales. The largest animal on Earth, the blue whale, is a baleen species. It also happens to be the loudest animal on Earth. These mammals can be quite noisy when they communicate, because the underwater environment can muffle sound. Many recordings of the distinctive melodious “songs” the animals use to communicate have been published around the world by marine researchers.

Some humans greatly enjoy going on whale watching trips, to see the animals first hand in their natural environment. During a trip, people can see the animals' behavior such as fluking, breaching, and spyhopping. When the animal flukes, it raises its tail above the water, sometimes bringing it down with an audible slapping noise. A spyhopping whale pokes its head up above the water, probably to investigate the surface environment. Breaching is the most impressive behavior to view, as the animal actually leaps out of the water, exposing most of its body to the air for a moment.

Concerns have been raised about the survival of whales, because many countries still hunt them, and the marine environment is slowly growing polluted due to human activity. Many researchers feel that the loss of these incredible mammals would be quite tragic, and they are making efforts to save these marine mammals for future generations to enjoy.

Ad

You might also Like

Recommended

Discuss this Article

anon327141
Post 2

What non-living things does a whale need to survive? I mean, seriously. I have a assignment.

FrameMaker
Post 1

Is a whale shark a whale or a shark? Do they have whale blubber, or are they a completely different species? If a whale shark is a whale, would scientists categorize it as a toothed whale or a baleen whale?

Post your comments

Post Anonymously

Login

username
password
forgot password?

Register

username
password
confirm
email