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The melon size varies between species, the bigger the more dependent they are of it. A beaked whale for example has a small bulge sitting on top of its skull, whereas a sperm whale's head is filled up mainly with the melon.
The whale eye is relatively small for its size, yet they do retain a good degree of eyesight. As well as this, the eyes of a whale are placed on the sides of its head, so their vision consists of two fields, rather than a binocular view like humans have.
When belugas surface, their lens and cornea correct the nearsightedness that results from the refraction of light; they contain both rod and cone cells, meaning they can see in both dim and bright light, but they have far more rod cells than they do cone cells.
Whales do, however, lack short wavelength sensitive visual pigments in their cone cells indicating a more limited capacity for colour vision than most mammals.
They also have glands on the eyelids and outer corneal layer that act as protection for the cornea. The olfactory lobes are absent in toothed whales, suggesting that they have no sense of smell.
Some whales, such as the bowhead whale , possess a vomeronasal organ , which does mean that they can "sniff out" krill. Whales are not thought to have a good sense of taste, as their taste buds are atrophied or missing altogether.
However, some toothed whales have preferences between different kinds of fish, indicating some sort of attachment to taste. The presence of the Jacobson's organ indicates that whales can smell food once inside their mouth, which might be similar to the sensation of taste.
Whale vocalization is likely to serve several purposes. Some species, such as the humpback whale, communicate using melodic sounds, known as whale song.
These sounds may be extremely loud, depending on the species. Captive whales have occasionally been known to mimic human speech.
Scientists have suggested this indicates a strong desire on behalf of the whales to communicate with humans, as whales have a very different vocal mechanism, so imitating human speech likely takes considerable effort.
Whales emit two distinct kinds of acoustic signals, which are called whistles and clicks: Whistles are narrow-band frequency modulated FM signals, used for communicative purposes, such as contact calls.
Whales are known to teach, learn, cooperate, scheme, and grieve. Whale spindle neurons are found in areas of the brain that are homologous to where they are found in humans, suggesting that they perform a similar function.
Brain size was previously considered a major indicator of the intelligence of an animal. Since most of the brain is used for maintaining bodily functions, greater ratios of brain to body mass may increase the amount of brain mass available for more complex cognitive tasks.
Comparison of a particular animal's brain size with the expected brain size based on such allometric analysis provides an encephalisation quotient that can be used as another indication of animal intelligence.
Small whales are known to engage in complex play behaviour, which includes such things as producing stable underwater toroidal air-core vortex rings or " bubble rings ".
There are two main methods of bubble ring production: They also appear to enjoy biting the vortex-rings, so that they burst into many separate bubbles and then rise quickly to the surface.
Larger whales are also thought, to some degree, to engage in play. The southern right whale , for example, elevates their tail fluke above the water, remaining in the same position for a considerable amount of time.
This is known as "sailing". It appears to be a form of play and is most commonly seen off the coast of Argentina and South Africa. Humpback whales , among others, are also known to display this behaviour.
Whales are fully aquatic creatures, which means that birth and courtship behaviours are very different from terrestrial and semi-aquatic creatures.
Since they are unable to go onto land to calve, they deliver the baby with the fetus positioned for tail-first delivery.
This prevents the baby from drowning either upon or during delivery. To feed the new-born, whales, being aquatic, must squirt the milk into the mouth of the calf.
Being mammals, they have mammary glands used for nursing calves; they are weaned off at about 11 months of age.
This milk contains high amounts of fat which is meant to hasten the development of blubber; it contains so much fat that it has the consistency of toothpaste.
Females, referred to as "cows", carry the responsibility of childcare as males, referred to as "bulls", play no part in raising calves. Most mysticetes reside at the poles.
They will then stay there for a matter of months until the calf has developed enough blubber to survive the bitter temperatures of the poles.
Until then, the calves will feed on the mother's fatty milk. Most will travel from the Arctic or Antarctic into the tropics to mate, calve, and raise during the winter and spring; they will migrate back to the poles in the warmer summer months so the calf can continue growing while the mother can continue eating, as they fast in the breeding grounds.
One exception to this is the southern right whale , which migrates to Patagonia and western New Zealand to calve; both are well out of the tropic zone.
Unlike most animals, whales are conscious breathers. All mammals sleep, but whales cannot afford to become unconscious for long because they may drown.
While knowledge of sleep in wild cetaceans is limited, toothed cetaceans in captivity have been recorded to sleep with one side of their brain at a time, so that they may swim, breathe consciously, and avoid both predators and social contact during their period of rest.
A study found that sperm whales sleep in vertical postures just under the surface in passive shallow 'drift-dives', generally during the day, during which whales do not respond to passing vessels unless they are in contact, leading to the suggestion that whales possibly sleep during such dives.
All whales are carnivorous and predatory. Odontocetes, as a whole, mostly feed on fish and cephalopods , and then followed by crustaceans and bivalves.
All species are generalist and opportunistic feeders. Mysticetes, as a whole, mostly feed on krill and plankton , followed by crustaceans and other invertebrates.
A few are specialists. Examples include the blue whale , which eats almost exclusively krill, the minke whale , which eats mainly schooling fish, the sperm whale , which specialize on squid , and the grey whale which feed on bottom-dwelling invertebrates.
The former behaviour is typical when hunting non-schooling fish, slow-moving or immobile invertebrates or endothermic prey. When large amounts of prey are available, whales such as certain mysticetes hunt cooperatively in small groups.
Large whales, such as mysticetes, are not usually subject to predation, but smaller whales, such as monodontids or ziphiids, are. These species are preyed on by the killer whale or orca.
To subdue and kill whales, orcas continuously ram them with their heads; this can sometimes kill bowhead whales, or severely injure them. Other times they corral the narwhals or belugas before striking.
They are typically hunted by groups of 10 or fewer orcas, but they are seldom attacked by an individual. Calves are more commonly taken by orcas, but adults can be targeted as well.
These small whales are also targeted by terrestrial and pagophilic predators. The polar bear is well adapted for hunting Arctic whales and calves.
Bears are known to use sit-and-wait tactics as well as active stalking and pursuit of prey on ice or water. Whales lessen the chance of predation by gathering in groups.
This however means less room around the breathing hole as the ice slowly closes the gap. When out at sea, whales dive out of the reach of surface-hunting orcas.
Polar bear attacks on belugas and narwhals are usually successful in winter, but rarely inflict any damage in summer. A study considered whales to be a positive influence to the productivity of ocean fisheries, in what has been termed a "whale pump.
This functions as an upward biological pump, reversing an earlier presumption that whales accelerate the loss of nutrients to the bottom.
This nitrogen input in the Gulf of Maine is "more than the input of all rivers combined" emptying into the gulf, some 23, metric tons 25, short tons each year.
The whale faeces are liquid and instead of sinking, they stay at the surface where phytoplankton feed off it. Upon death, whale carcasses fall to the deep ocean and provide a substantial habitat for marine life.
Evidence of whale falls in present-day and fossil records shows that deep sea whale falls support a rich assemblage of creatures, with a global diversity of species, comparable to other neritic biodiversity hotspots, such as cold seeps and hydrothermal vents.
Deterioration of whale carcasses happens though a series of three stages. Initially, moving organisms such as sharks and hagfish , scavenge the soft tissues at a rapid rate over a period of months, and as long as two years.
This is followed by the colonization of bones and surrounding sediments which contain organic matter by enrichment opportunists, such as crustaceans and polychaetes , throughout a period of years.
Finally, sulfophilic bacteria reduce the bones releasing hydrogen sulfide enabling the growth of chemoautotrophic organisms, which in turn, support other organisms such as mussels, clams, limpets, and sea snails.
This stage may last for decades and supports a rich assemblage of species, averaging species per site.
Whaling by humans has existed since the Stone Age. Ancient whalers used harpoons to spear the bigger animals from boats out at sea.
The most successful whaling nations at this time were the Netherlands, Japan, and the United States.
Commercial whaling was historically important as an industry well throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
Whaling was at that time a sizeable European industry with ships from Britain, France, Spain, Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany, sometimes collaborating to hunt whales in the Arctic, sometimes in competition leading even to war.
The scale of whale harvesting decreased substantially after when the International Whaling Commission IWC placed a moratorium which set a catch limit for each country, excluding aboriginal groups until Current whaling nations are Norway, Iceland, and Japan, despite their joining to the IWC , as well as the aboriginal communities of Siberia, Alaska, and northern Canada.
National and international authorities have given special treatment to aboriginal hunters since their methods of hunting are seen as less destructive and wasteful.
This distinction is being questioned as these aboriginal groups are using more modern weaponry and mechanized transport to hunt with, and are selling whale products in the marketplace.
Some anthropologists argue that the term "subsistence" should also apply to these cash-based exchanges as long as they take place within local production and consumption.
Whales can also be threatened by humans more indirectly. They are unintentionally caught in fishing nets by commercial fisheries as bycatch and accidentally swallow fishing hooks.
Gillnetting and Seine netting is a significant cause of mortality in whales and other marine mammals. Whales are also affected by marine pollution.
High levels of organic chemicals accumulate in these animals since they are high in the food chain. They have large reserves of blubber, more so for toothed whales as they are higher up the food chain than baleen whales.
Lactating mothers can pass the toxins on to their young. These pollutants can cause gastrointestinal cancers and greater vulnerability to infectious diseases.
Sonar interferes with the basic biological functions of whales—such as feeding and mating—by impacting their ability to echolocate.
Whales swim in response to sonar and sometimes experience decompression sickness due to rapid changes in depth.
Mass strandings have been triggered by sonar activity, resulting in injury or death. Whaling decreased substantially after when, in response to the steep decline in whale populations, the International Whaling Commission placed a moratorium which set a catch limit for each country; this excluded aboriginal groups up until Vincent and the Grenadines each year.
Conversely, the North Atlantic right whale was extirpated from much of its former range, which stretched across the North Atlantic, and only remains in small fragments along the coast of Canada, Greenland, and is considered functionally extinct along the European coastline.
The IWC has designated two whale sanctuaries: Any nation may leave as they wish; the IWC cannot enforce any law it makes. Six are considered at risk, as they are ranked Critically Endangered the North Atlantic right whale , " Endangered " blue whale, fin whale, North Pacific right whale, and sei whale , and " Vulnerable " sperm whale.
Twenty-one species have a " Data Deficient " ranking. An estimated 13 million people went whale watching globally in , in all oceans except the Arctic.
Whale watching lobbyists are concerned that the most inquisitive whales, which approach boats closely and provide much of the entertainment on whale-watching trips, will be the first to be taken if whaling is resumed in the same areas.
As marine creatures that reside in either the depths or the poles, humans knew very little about whales over the course of history ; many feared or revered them.
The Nords and various arctic tribes revered the whale as they were important pieces of their lives. In Inuit creation myths , when 'Big Raven', a deity in human form, found a stranded whale, he was told by the Great Spirit where to find special mushrooms that would give him the strength to drag the whale back to the sea and thus, return order to the world.
In an Icelandic legend, a man threw a stone at a fin whale and hit the blowhole, causing the whale to burst. The man was told not to go to sea for twenty years, but during the nineteenth year he went fishing and a whale came and killed him.
Whales played a major part in shaping the art forms of many coastal civilizations, such as the Norse , with some dating to the Stone Age.
Petroglyphs off a cliff face in Bangudae, South Korea show depictions of various animals, a third of which are whales. Some show particular detail in which there are throat pleats, typical of rorquals.
These petroglyphs show these people, of around 7, to 3, B. The Pacific Islanders and Australian Aborigines viewed whales as bringers of good and joy.
One exception is French Polynesia , where, in many parts, cetaceans are met with great brutality. In Vietnam and Ghana, among other places, whales hold a sense of divinity.
They are so respected in their cultures that they occasionally hold funerals for beached whales, a throwback to Vietnam's ancient sea-based Austro-Asiatic culture.
Whales have also played a role in sacred texts such as the Bible. It mentions whales in Genesis 1: The " leviathan " described at length in Job The "sea monsters" in Lamentations 4: A medieval column capital sculpture depicting this was made in the 12th century in the abbey church in Mozac , France.
In , Alessandro Farnese , , and Francois, Duke of Anjou, , were greeted on his ceremonial entry into the port city of Antwerp by floats including "Neptune and the Whale", indicating at least the city's dependence on the sea for its wealth.
In , an article in The Pall Mall Gazette popularised a practice of alternative medicine that probably began in the whaling town of Eden , Australia two or three years earlier.
Whales continue to be prevalent in modern literature. For example, Herman Melville 's Moby Dick features a "great white whale" as the main antagonist for Ahab, who eventually is killed by it.
The whale is an albino sperm whale, considered by Melville to be the largest type of whale, and is partly based on the historically attested bull whale Mocha Dick.
Belugas were the first whales to be kept in captivity. Other species were too rare, too shy, or too big. Lawrence River estuary until the late s, after which they were predominantly taken from the Churchill River estuary until capture was banned in Petersburg , and Sochi , or exported to other countries, such as Canada.
As of , 30 belugas were in Canada and 28 in the United States, and 42 deaths in captivity had been reported up to that time. The beluga's popularity is due to its unique colour and its facial expressions.
The latter is possible because while most cetacean "smiles" are fixed, the extra movement afforded by the beluga's unfused cervical vertebrae allows a greater range of apparent expression.
Between and , the Navy carried out a program that included the study of marine mammals' abilities with sonar , with the objective of improving the detection of underwater objects.
A large number of belugas were used from on, the first being dolphins. Aquariums have tried housing other species of whales in captivity.
The success of belugas turned attention to maintaining their relative, the narwhal, in captivity. However, in repeated attempts in the s and s, all narwhals kept in captivity died within months.
A pair of pygmy right whales were retained in an enclosed area with nets ; they were eventually released in South Africa.
There was one attempt to keep a stranded Sowerby's beaked whale calf in captivity; the calf rammed into the tank wall, breaking its rostrum, which resulted in death.
There were three attempts to keep grey whales in captivity. Gigi was a grey whale calf that died in transport.
They were kept in a tidal pool with a sea-gate at the Izu Mito Sea Paradise. Another, unsuccessful, attempt was made by the U.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about a marine mammal. For other uses, see Whale disambiguation. For further information, see Cetacea.
List of whale species and List of extinct cetaceans. Recording of Humpback Whales singing and Clicking. Whaling and History of whaling.
Cetacean bycatch , Cetacean stranding , and Marine mammals and sonar. Cetaceans portal Marine life portal Mammals portal Arctic portal Animal rights portal.
Retrieved 18 March Orcas of the Gulf: The University of Arizona. Retrieved 17 January Archived from the original on 28 August Retrieved 23 January Archived from the original on 1 October Archived from the original on 26 November Rommel , Ziphiidae Schrope , p.
The Pall Mall Gazette. The Sydney Morning Herald. Transitioning from spiritual links, to whaling, to whale watching in Aotearoa New Zealand".
A Yearly Journal of Folklore Studies. University of New England Retrieved 11 February Klinowska, Margaret; Cooke, Justin Dolphins, Porpoises, and Whales of the World: Columbia University Press, NY: Sensory Abilities of Cetaceans: Laboratory and Field Evidence.
Records of 'blackfish' killer, false killer, pilot, pygmy killer, and melon-headed whales in the Indian Ocean Sanctuary, in Cetaceans and cetacean research in the Indian Ocean Sanctuary.
An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language 3 ed. Shorter Oxford English dictionary. Ralls, Katherine; Mesnick, Sarah Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals 2nd ed.
Edward; Hume, Ian D. Comparative Physiology of the Vertebrate Digestive System. Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals.
Specializations for Aquatic Audition and Echolocation". In Webster, Douglas B. The Evolutionary Biology of Hearing. Kennedy, Robert; Perrin, W.
Social Evolution in the Ocean. University of Chicago Press. Janet Mann; Richard C. Field Studies of Dolphins and Whales.
Antarctic Ocean and Resources Variability. Seals, Sea Lions, and Walruses. University of California Press. Basque whaling in Labrador in the 16th century.
The History of Modern Whaling. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. Johns Hopkins University Press.
Whale watching in Iceland. Retrieved 29 August Retrieved 30 December A Farewell to Whales 1 ed. Molecular Biology and Evolution. Lunge Feeding in Rorqual Whales".
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Journal of Mammalian Evolution. Uses authors parameter link Scholander, Per Fredrik Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology A.
Oceanography and Marine Biology: Mass, Alla; Supin, Alexander 21 May Wiley, David; et al. Marine Ecology Progress Series.
Morrel, Virginia 30 January Roman, Joe; Estes, James A. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. Nummela, Sirpa; Thewissen, J.
Anatomical adaptations for underwater hearing". The head also consists of a cavity large enough to park a car inside that contains a yellowish wax called spermaceti that was much sought after by whalers.
The bowhead whale , which lives exclusively in the Arctic, has the thickest blubber of all whales. It can reach a whopping 70cm in thickness.
These whales also have the longest baleen — the comb-like structures hanging down from their upper jaws used as a sieve to filter food from the sea-water.
These baleen plates can reach up to 5 metres in length. The southern right whale has the largest testes in the animal kingdom —each pair weighing around a tonne.
The male narwhal has two teeth. In Europe, these tusks were once sold as the horns of the mythical unicorn. Only around individuals currently exist with fewer than North Pacific right whales remaining.
Here, a genetically distinct population of Bryde's whales has recently been discovered that may have fewer than 50 individuals remaining.
In the wild whales live for a long time - generally the larger species living longest. Bowhead whales spend their lives in cold Arctic waters.
More facts about beluga whales. But while a sperm whale's sound lasts for only around microseconds a microsecond is 1 millionth of a second , a blue whale's call can last up to 30 seconds.
Sounds over decibels are painful to human ears. The songs have the largest range of frequencies used by whales, ranging from , hertz. Only male humpback whales have been recorded singing.
They sing these complex songs only in warm waters where they breed and give birth. In cold waters, they make rougher sounds, scrapes and groans, perhaps used for locating large masses of krill the tiny crustaceans that they eat.
The humpback whales that feed in Antarctic waters and swim north to breed off the coasts of Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica make one of the longest confirmed migration of any mammal.
Gray whales also migrate huge distances and some may even rival the humpback for distance travelled. Some travel a round-trip of between 16,—20, km 10,—12, miles every year between their winter calving lagoons in the warm waters of Mexico and their summer feeding grounds in the cold Arctic seas, however a female grey whale has recently been recorded as having made an even longer round-trip of 22,km 14, miles migrating between the east coast of Russia and the breeding grounds of Mexico.
To put this into perspective, the continent of Africa is approximately 8, km 5, miles from north to south. Despite their size, the fin whale , the second largest whale, is known as the "greyhound of the sea" and can reach speeds of up to 20mph 32kph!
Skip to main content. Here are some incredible facts about whales and their lives in the oceans. Which is the biggest whale? How big is the calf of a blue whale?