Types of Whales

Types of Whale

Each whale belongs to a group called cetaceans, and there are two kinds in general: the toothed whale (odontocete) and the baleen whale (mysticete). Most whales are being hunted to extinction and are facing a lot of threats to their existence because of certain activities conducted by human beings.

Blue Whales

Blue whales are the biggest animals that have ever lived on this planet, even larger than dinosaurs.  The biggest blue whale ever to be found was around 110 feet long and weighed almost 200 tons.  Their tongues alone can weigh the size of an elephant, and their hearts can weigh the same as a car. 

blue game

Diet & Feeding

A Blue whale can reach an unbelievable size just by living on a diet that is made up of a tiny creature that looks like a shrimp called krill. One adult Blue whale can eat approximately 4 tons of krill on a daily basis during certain months of the year.  

A Blue Whale is classified as a Baleen whale; consequently it has a fringed plate attached to its upper jaw.  This enormous creature feeds itself by swallowing a massive amount of water which expands the folded skin that you see inside its belly and throat so that it can take the food inside.  A Blue Whale’s giant tongue forces all the water outside via its narrow baleen plates that overlap. Hundreds of krill get left behind for a short while, but soon get swallowed after all the water is forced out. 

Characteristics

To state the obvious, a Blue whale looks blue when it is underwater; however, it is more like a bluish-grey colour when it comes to the surface.  Its underbelly has a yellowish shade which comes from all the microorganisms (millions) that reside inside its skin. A Blue whale has a wide, level head and an elongated body which has broad, triangular flukes on the end.

Location

A Blue whale lives in the ocean all over the world and swims in a small group from time to time, although it generally swims by itself, or in a pair. It spends the summer months nourishing itself in the waters in the Arctic and begins long migrations to the Equator during winter.

Speed & Sound

These agile swimmers go cruising along the ocean at over five miles per hour, but speed up to over twenty miles per hour when they feel distressed. A Blue whale is one of the loudest creatures on this earth; it releases a sequence of moans, pulses and groans, and it is believed that, in excellent conditions, Blue whales are capable of hearing one another from almost 1,000 miles away. Experts believe that they utilise these kinds of discourses as a way of communicating, and to use sound propagation to navigate and detect any objects that are on top of, or underneath the surface of the water.

Babies & Life Expectancy

A Blue whale baby comes into the world being ranked as the largest animal on earth. A baby whale emerges after staying inside a mother's womb for approximately twelve months, and it weighs around 3 tons and stretches to 25 feet. It just guzzles its mother's milk and manages to gain around 200 pounds every single day during the first year.

A Blue whale is amongst the planet’s longest-living creature. Experts have found out that they are capable of accurately estimating the age of an animal by adding up all the layers of wax of a deceased whale. The oldest Blue whale that was found utilising this kind of method was verified to be about 110 years old. The average life expectancy of a Blue Whale is approximately 80 to 90 years.

Population

There are around 10,000 to 25,000 Blue whales that continue to swim around all the oceans in the world. During the 1900s, violent hunting by people looking for whale oil, forced them to the verge of extinction. In 1900 to 1960s, a total of 360,000 Blue whales were killed. Thankfully, in 1996, they eventually became protected by the International Whaling Commission; however, they have only managed to recover a small number since.

Predators

A Blue whale does not have many predators, although it has been known to become a victim of a shark or a killer whale attack, and a lot of them seem to get wounded or killed every year due to collisions with big ships. Blue whales are classified as an endangered species and has been placed on the World Conservation Union’s Red List.

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Bow Head Whale

A Bowhead whale is a baleen whale and comes from the Arctic in freezing temperatures.  It is a healthy sized whale and has a large head with a bow-shape, which is almost 40% of the length of its entire body. It has a curved mouth that is approximately 10 feet wide and 20 feet deep. A Bowhead has tiny eyes and large lips. It does not have any teeth but has baleen plates instead.  Bowheads live in shells/pods, have plenty of blubber, which is a 20 inch subcutaneous layer, and they have two blowholes in total.

When hypothermia stands in the way of Paul Nicklen's dream of photographing a 50-foot bowhead whale, sometimes a little push is all that is needed.

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Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus)

A Fin whale is an enormous baleen whale and is classified as the second biggest creature on this planet. Occasionally it is known as the "greyhound of the sea" because it swims at an accelerated speed; it can usually swim up to 23 mph in remarkably short bursts.

A Fin whale is a fairly flat and even whale and can be found all over the world apart from inside polar waters; it is fairly popular in the Southern Hemisphere. You will also find Fin whales in the northern Pacific and North Atlantic Hemisphere; they don’t interbreed. Migration for Fin whales happens between feeding and breeding grounds. Fin whales typically swim in groups of 3-7 whales; however, larger groups of around 300 might be formed in abundant feeding arenas, or during migration.

A Fin whale is commonly known as a finner, finback, common rorqual, razorback, and herring whale also.

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Gray Whale

A Gray Whale is classified as a baleen whale and has a thick layer of blubber that is around 10 inches dense. It tends to migrate from cooler waters to tropical locations every year in social groups. A Gray whale is an incredibly agile swimmer. It is capable of diving for around thirty minutes and can go as deep as 500 feet.  A Gray whale makes clicks, grunts as well as screeching sounds that are used to converse  with all other Gray whales.

gray whale

Off the coast of Monterey Bay, California, the arena is set killer whales and gray whales are set for an annual, epic battle. While gray whales are 30-ton powerhouses, they face a fierce predator in killer whales. Join Wild Chronicles to see who wins this struggle for survival beneath the turbulent waves.

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Humpback Whales

A Humpback whale is classified as a baleen whale as well as a Rorqual whale and sings delightful songs. It can perform complicated and collaborative feeding strategies. A Humpback whale has a gigantic head with some rough swellings; each has a bristle. A Humpback is an acrobat in the deep sea, and it breaches and slaps the water. Humpbacks live in a social group and have two blowholes. Their name illustrates the action that they make when they curve their backs outside of the ocean in order to get ready to make a dive. 

humpback whale

It doesn't take much to fill a humpback's whale appetite.... just a thousand pounds or so of fish, krill, plankton and the like. That's a thousand pounds a day!

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Killer Whales

Surprisingly Killer Whales belong to the biggest species of the dolphin family and are the strongest predator in the world.

killer whales

A pod of orcas, or killer whales, cooperate to wash a Weddell seal off an ice floe. This sequence, filmed for Frozen Planet, marks the first complete filming of killer whale "wave washing" behavior.

The Right Whales (Eubalaena spp.)

A Right whale is a baleen whale and has a lower jaw that has the shape of a bow.  Its head is almost a quarter of the length of its body.  A Right whale’s head is a lot  hairier compared to all other whales; it has around three hundred hairs that are located on the lower jaw along the tip and on the upper jaw. You can also find a set of horny developments at the back of its blowhole, on its chin, above its eyes, on its lower lip, and upper jaw. A Right whale is like a bowhead whale; however, it’s smaller. A Right Whale has plenty of blubber and two blowholes. It has tiny eyes and large lips. A Right whale was given its name by whalers who deemed it as the "right" creature to go and hunt down because it has so much blubber and is a lot easier to capture.  Plus, it tends to float after it gets killed. 

southern right whale

Brian Skerry working with National Geographic describes the exhilaration of an up-close encounter with a curious, 45-foot-long right whale.

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Sei Whale ( Balaenoptera borealis)

A Sei whale is dark-grey in colour and is a baleen whale.  It is stream-lined and can be located all over the world besides Arctic waters. It generally swims in small social groups of 3-5 whales although bigger groups might form in abundant feeding locations. A Sei whale is very much like a Bryde's whale; people often confuse the two.

A Sei whale is known as a Sardine, Pollack, Coalfish, Japan Finner, and Rudolphi's Rorqual whale, also. A significant number of these whales was hunted for their meat and oil not so long ago. A Sei swims the fastest compared to the great whale and is capable of swimming at around 23 mph in exceedingly short bursts.

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Sperm Whale

A Sperm whale is classified as a “toothed” whale and lives in social groups. Its brain is massive and weighs around 20 pounds; it has the  biggest brain compared to all other animals. A Sperm whale just has one blowhole which has an S shape and is around twenty inches length wise. Its blowhole is situated on the front of its massive head, on the left hand side. A Sperm whale has a thick layer of blubber that is between 4-12 inches.

A Sperm whale produces ambergris, which is a dark coloured waxy substance.  It tends to produce ambergris inside its intestines, which helps to protect it from getting stung by a huge squid - its main source of food. Massive chunks of ambergris might get vomited by a Sperm whale.

The fictitious character Moby Dick is a Sperm whale.

sperm whale

A baby sperm whale learns to swim alone while its mother hunts deep below.

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Find out More About Different Whale Types at the NOAA Fisheries Site

Find out How Sea Shepherd are protecting the whales against whale hunting in Japan at Whale Wars on the Discover Channel.

More Interesting Facts & Adventures with Whales