Student Information Sheet
All About Whales





General Information

Whales are the largest animals to ever live. The largest whale is the giant blue whale which can reach lengths of 90-100 feet and weight as much as 120-150 tons.  The commonly seen finback whale is the second largest animal to ever appear on earth.

Whales are not fish.  They are in the same group as us--mammals meaning they breathe air, are warm-blooded, give birth to live children, and nurse their babies with milk just as female humans do.

The body of the whale is suited for marine life.  Their bones are soft and spongy, making them light in weight and not very strong for their size. (Isn't that interesting, you would expect for an animal that big to be very strong.) The bones in a whale's neck are fused together giving the neck support but, a whale is unable to turn its head.

Unlike humans the whale can't see straight in front of them and they can't see as well in the air as it can in water.  Whales have greasy tears that protect their eyes when they dive below 500 feet.

The whale can hear well in water even though it has no outside ears. Just as humans us their legs,arms and feet whales use their flippers for balance and steering.   Instead of having a tail, a whale has a pair of flukes.  these are horizontal and move up and down as opposed to  fish whose fins move side to side.  The flukes serve as the whale's propellers.

Whales breathe air and can stay under water between 10-15 minutes.  If a whale becomes frightened or wounded it an stay under water for more than an hour. When the whale comes back up to the top, it breathes or "spouts".  This spout is carbon dioxide along with warm water vapor.  This breath (Similar to yours on a cold day) is like a water fountain.

Whales are very  sociable and usually travel in groups or school calles "gams" or "pods".

The "toothed" whales are the largest group in terms of numbers: however;, they are smaller than the baleens.  these whales feed on fish and large sea animals.  a characteristic of the toothed whale is a single blowhole in the top of its head, instead two.  There is one type of toothed whale, the sperm whale, which can grow to a very big size.  Many legends have been written about this whale, such as Moby Dick.

The "baleens" are smaller in number but large in size tha the toothed. These whales are characterized by having two blowholes and huge mouths.  The baleens feed by filtering food, called "krill", through large sheets of tissue called baleens.  They swim with their mouths open which fill with water.  the krill is screened in as the water is forced out.  Krill growth depends on the seasons, because of this baleens will migrate to areas where the food supply is aabundant.

Whales have few enemies other than man.  Man has been known to hunt whales for their blubber to be converted into lamp oil.  today, whales are hunted for such things as; making facial creams, cooking fat and explosives.  Although there has been a ban inposed on the killing of whales, people sometimes ignore the ban and continue to hunt and kill whales.

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