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10 FACTS ABOUT WHALES
October 26, 2023

10 FACTS ABOUT WHALES

Prince of Whales
  1. Whales are categorized into two primary groups: baleen whales and toothed whales. Baleen whales, like humpbacks and blue whales, possess fibrous ‘baleen’ plates instead of teeth, aiding them in filtering and consuming large amounts of krill, plankton, and crustaceans. In contrast, toothed whales, including orcas, belugas, and sperm whales, have teeth that allow them to feed on larger prey such as fish and squid. All dolphin families, including porpoises, are also considered whales due to their closer relation to their toothed counterparts.
  2. Certain whales utilize a feeding strategy called “bubble net feeding,” in which they cooperate by blowing bubbles that form a ring around their prey. These bubbles effectively create a barrier, ensnaring the prey and facilitating the whales’ consumption of their catch.
  3. The name ‘narwhal’ originates from Old Norse and means “corpse whale” due to the whale’s skin colour, which resembles that of a drowned sailor.
  4. Humpback whales in the Southern Hemisphere rely on their fat reserves for 5.5-7.5 months each year as they migrate from their tropical breeding grounds to the Antarctic for krill feeding.
  5. Sperm Whales have the largest brains in the animal kingdom. Sperm whales, the largest among toothed whales, possess the largest brains of any creature on Earth. They are easily distinguishable by their massive, distinctively shaped heads, which contain a substance known as spermaceti. This substance is responsible for developing the largest brain on the planet. The extent of the sperm whale’s intelligence remains somewhat mysterious due to our limited understanding of these animals. This is primarily because they are elusive and their surface behaviors are challenging to study.
  6. The Antarctic blue whale holds the title of the largest animal on Earth. These giants can weigh up to 200 tons (equivalent to approximately 33 elephants) and reach lengths of up to 30 meters. They consume roughly 3,600 kilograms of krill daily!
  7. The population of Antarctic blue whales once numbered over 225,000 before they were heavily exploited in the 1900s. Today, they are classified as an endangered species, with fewer than 3,000 remaining in the wild.
  8. Whales are frequently entangled in fishing nets, with over 80% of North Atlantic Right Whales experiencing entanglement at least once in their lifetimes, often multiple times.
  9. Only male narwhals usually possess a tusk that develops from a tooth. This tusk is used for various purposes, including foraging, displays of dominance, and potentially fighting and breaking ice. Additionally, the tusk is a sensory tool for detecting changes in the surrounding sea.
  10. Killer whales, also known as orcas, are the largest members of the dolphin family. They are the ocean’s apex predators, preying on a diverse range of marine species, including various fish species, penguins, seabirds, sea turtles, cephalopods, and even marine mammals such as seals and other whales. Offshore killer whales in South Africa hunt Great White Sharks for their liver only.

From the colossal Antarctic blue whales to the intelligent sperm whales and the enigmatic narwhals, these creatures continue to captivate us with their extraordinary characteristics and behaviors. However, their survival is threatened by various factors, including entanglement in fishing nets and the exploitation that pushed the Antarctic blue whales to the brink of extinction. As we delve deeper into the depths of marine science, our understanding of these majestic beings grows, emphasizing the importance of their conservation for future generations to continue marveling at these ocean giants.

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