Whales are one of most elusive and amazing creatures on earth. It’s believed that millions of years ago, whales probably walked on land. Over time, their hind legs disappeared, and their fore legs evolved into flippers. Isn’t that fascinating? But there are many more incredible facts about the biggest mammal on earth. And, here MomJunction has compiled some amazing whale facts for kids to help your little ones have a whale of a time.
Facts And Information On Blue Whales:
1. The Biggest And Heaviest Whale:
The blue whale is the largest animal that has ever lived on the surface of the earth. It’s said to be larger than any of the dinosaurs. The largest blue whale ever was a female, which lived in the Antarctic Ocean. It was 30.5 meters long, i.e. 3.5 times the length of the double Decker bus, and as long as Boeing 737 plane. The estimated weight of this whale is 144 tones, which is same as 2000 men. Just the tongue of this whale weighs as much as an Asian elephant.
The heart of the blue whale weighs 450 kg and is about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle car. The aorta of the blue whale’s heart is large enough for a human child to crawl through.
Amazingly enough, this giant animal feeds on smallest marine life- krill, tiny shrimp-like animals. An adult blue whale can consume 3600 kilograms of krill a day.
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2. Blue Whale Calf:
The gestation period of the blue whale is about 10 to 12 months. The newborn of the blue whale is 7.5 meters long, and it weighs around 5 to 7 tons. The newborns are helped to swim on the surface of the water by their mothers. They are also encouraged by other females to take their first breath of air.
These, not so tiny, babies drink about 225 liters of their mother’s, fat-laden, milk every day, gaining 3.6 kilograms every hour. They follow this diet until the age of 8 months, when they become 15 meters long and weigh 22 tones. The mother and baby stay together for a year or more, until the calf is 13 meters long. The Blue whales reach maturity at 12 to 15 years.
3. The Predators Of Blue Whales:
Blue whales have a just a few predators, but have been known to fall victim to orcas and sharks. Some get injured or die because of large ships sailing across the ocean.
4. Swimming Habits Of Blue Whales:
Blue whales normally swim alone or in pairs and occasionally in small groups. They form close attachments when swimming. Despite their humongous exterior, these graceful swimmers cruise the ocean at over 6 miles per hour and can reach speeds of over 25 miles per hour.
Facts And Information On Humpback Whales:
1. Size And Structure Of The Humpback Whale:
The humpback whale is one of the most known species of whales. It can reach 40 to 50 feet in length and can weigh up to 48 tons. These whales are identified by their large flippers; that reach 1/3 of their body size and the hump on their backs. These whales are gray to black in colors with white markings on the underside. These markings differ in every whale and are like fingerprints, which allows the researchers to identify individuals.
2. Habitat Of The Humpback Whales:
The humpback whales live in oceans across the globe, including the waters of Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific Oceans. During migration, the humpback whales are found in the deep ocean and coastal waters. They do not come out of the coastal waters until they reach the latitudes of New York, Long Island, Massachusetts and Cape Cod. These whales travel and live together in pods of 20,000 whales.
3. Behavior Of The Humpback Whales:
The humpback whales are known for their complex mating songs. The complexity of the songs suggests that they are brilliant creatures. These songs are a mating signal for the whales. Additionally, the humpback whales are also well known for the water acrobatics. These whales leap out of the water, and even use their flukes to propel themselves out of the ocean.
4. Population Of Humpback Whales:
The humpback whales were first protected as an endangered animal in 1966. Currently, it is believed to be 30,000 to 40,000 humpback whales; that’s around 30% of their original population.
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Facts And Information About Killer Whales Or Orcas:
1. Size And Structure Of Orca Or Killer Whales:
Orcas or killer whales are identifiable by their distinctive white patches near and on the underside of the eyes. They have long and rounded bodies with large, dorsal fins in the middle of the backs. These intelligent whales are trainable stars of several aquarium shows.
2. How Do Orca Whales Hunt?
Orcas whales are the most powerful predators in the world. They feed on marine mammals like sea lions, seals, and even whales, by employing their four inches long teeth. Just like dolphins, even orca whales use echolocation. And for hunting, they use a series of high-pitched clicks to stun their prey. The killer whales usually hunt in groups comprising up to 40 individuals. The different groups prey on different animals and can use different techniques to catch them. They usually feed on squid, fish, bird and marine mammals. The resident pods like to hunt for fish and the transient pod hunt on marine animals.
3. The Population Of Orca Whales:
We cannot comment on the exact population of the orcas worldwide, but it is estimated to be less than 50,000 individuals.
4. Behavior Of Orca Whales:
Orca or Killer whales are highly social animals, and they travel in groups like pods, which may consist of 5 to 30 whales. Some pods can combine to form a group of 100 or more whales. The orcas also establish social hierarchies and pods, which are led by females. These whales have a complex form of communications with dialects differing from one pod to another.
Facts And Information On Beluga Whales:
1. Beluga Whales Size And Structure:
Adult beluga whales are distinguished by their small size, pure white skin and lack of dorsal fin. They have a broad and well-rounded head with a large forehead. They have paddle-like flippers and notched tails. Their 6-inch thick blubber helps them adapt them to their arctic and sub-arctic environment.
2. Habitat Of Beluga Whale:
You will find beluga whales through the arctic and subarctic waters. They inhabit the waters off the shores of Greenland, Russia, Norway, Canada and Alaska.
3. Behavior Of Beluga Whales:
The beluga whales forage for food on the seabed and in the water column. Their foraging usually takes place at depths up to 1000 feet, but they can dive twice this depth. The belugas cluster and travel in groups ranging from 3 to three hundred individuals. Some beluga whales are migratory while others remain residents of a particular area. But mostly, they are found close to the shore or in the sea. In the summers, these whales gather in the estuaries of the rivers to calve and feed. These whales navigate and communicate by producing a variety of chirps, clicks, and whistles.
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4. Diet Of Beluga Whale:
Beluga whales are said to be opportunistic feeders. They feed on eulachon, salmon, rainbow sole, cod, herring, shrimp, crabs, mussels, snails and much more. The beluga whales used sound to find their prey.
Facts And Information On Gray Whales:
1. Size And Structure:
Gray whale is a 45 to 50 feet large fish weight 30 to 40 tons. They have a streamlined body with tapered head and upper jaw overlapping the lower jaw. Do you know why it’s named gray whale? The whale got its name from the gray patches and white mottling on its skin. Most of the adult gray whales have scars and tooth rake marks from their encounters with orcas. Young ones get patches soon after they are born. These whales are often covered with parasites and other organisms that make their backs and snouts look like an ocean rock.
2. Dieting And Hunting Habits:
Gray whales are bottom feeders, and they hunt for their prey by foraging the tiny creatures from the sea floor. They even turn on their side and scoop up the sediments of the sea floor. Once they see the prey rising from the sea floor, they use their bristles to filter through the water while trapping their prey.
Their diet consists of benthic crustacean, but they can eat a variety of small prey that lies in their path. They can also drink as much as 80 gallons of milk per day.
3. Habitat Of Gray Whales:
You will often find gray whales swimming near Korea in the western north pacific ocean and the eastern North Pacific ocean. But spotting in areas, such as Mediterranean sea suggests that these marine mammals can even repopulate the areas that have abandoned due to previous whaling activities. A small group of gray whales makes migration from the Chukchi and Bering sea every October.
Facts And Information On Minke Whales:
1. Size And Structure:
The Minke is the second smallest whale of the baleen category of whales. These whales are more likely to be 35 feet long and weigh 5.5 tons. They have two blowholes in black and white colors. The other physical characteristics of minke whale include two, long flippers, a small sized dorsal fin and ridges close to the tail. The Antarctic minke is one of the smallest minke whales.
Minke whales can be spotted in all the oceans of the world, but they prefer boreal and temperate waters. But they can also be found in areas with thick layers of ice and tropical and subtropical regions. These whales are estimated to have a population of over 7,50,000, making them the most abundant species of whale in the whale suborder.
Minke whales are not very social and most of them like living alone. Others can have a partner or can be a group of three. Only during migration, you will see large groups together.
4. Diet And Hunting:
The diet of Minke whale consists of small fish, krill, herring and cod. They move 6 miles per hour when they are feeding and 24 miles per hour when they are not.
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Facts And Information On Narwhal Whales:
1. Size And Structure:
Also dubbed as the ‘unicorns of the sea’, narwhals are attractive whales with tusks jutting from their head. These whales can grow 17 feet long and can weigh 4200 pounds. The tusk of narwhals is in fact, a long tooth that has sensory capabilities and millions of nerve endings. These tusks can grow up to 10 feet.
The narwhals change their color as they age. The newborns are bluish gray in color; the juveniles are blue black and the adults are mottled gray in color. Old narwhals are nearly all white in color.
2. Habitat Of Narwhal:
Unlike the other migrating species of whales, narwhals spend most of their lives in the waters of Greenland, Russia, Norway and Canada. Since Narwhals are migratory, they move closer to the shore during the summer and live under packed ice in the winter months.
Narwhals generally move very slowly, but can be remarkably quick when chased by the predators. They prefer to stay near the surface of the ocean, but can dive up to 5,000 feet.
Fun Facts And Information On Whales:
1. Whale That Dives Deepest:
Out of all the species of whales, Sperm whales are the best divers. Adult sperm whales can stay undersea for up to 2 hours and can dive up to 2000 meters of more. You can ascertain their diving habits by their dietary pattern as well. Sperm whales love to feed on squid, which reside deep down the ocean. The sperm whales dive down the ocean just to catch them. The Cuvier’s beaked whale has been recorded to dive to a depth of 3 kilometers for over 2 hours.
2. Whale With The Biggest Brain:
Sperm whale has the hugest brain of all the whales. Its brain is 1/3 of its total body length, with the brain weighing up to 9 kilograms. Its head consists of a cavity that is large enough to park a hatchback car. The brain also contains spermaceti, a yellow colored wax considered highly prized by the whalers.
3. Whale With The Longest Teeth:
The male narwhals have the longest teeth. The left tooth of the male narwhals grows to up to 2 to 3 meters and pierces the animal’s lip. In Europe, the tusk of the narwhal was once traded as the horns of the unicorn.
4. Most Endangered Whale:
North Pacific and North Atlantic are the most threatened species whales. Currently, just 400 to 500 of these whales exist, with less than a hundred North Pacific whales remaining.
But the most endangered whale inhabits the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a group of genetically distinct population of the Bryde’s whales discovered recently, with just fifty individuals remaining.
5. Whales That Make The Loudest Sound:
Blue whales are the loudest animals on earth, with sound reaching up to 190 decibel. Their calls can be heard even thousands of miles away. In fact, the sound of the blue jet is louder than a jet plane, which reaches 140 decibels.
Male humpback whale sings complex, and sometimes eerie, and varied songs, which include sequences of grunts and squeaks. The frequencies of the sound range from 0 to 9000 hertz. They sing complex songs in warm waters and make scrapes, groans and rougher sounds in cold waters. The humpback whales also sing to locate large masses of krill.
Scientists believe that whales use their vocalization not just to communicate, but also to sonar-navigate the dark and deep oceans.
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6. Whales That Make The Longest Migration:
The humpback whales make the longest migration. They swim north to breed off the coasts of Panama, Colombia, and Costa Rica, making one of the longest migrations of any mammal.
Even the gray whales migrate enormous distances. They even compete with the humpback whales in the distance traveled. Some of the gray whales take a round trip of 10,000 to 12,000 miles each year, spending their winter in the warm waters of Mexico and their summer in the cold Arctic seas.
Recently, a female gray whale was recorded to make a trip of 14,000 miles, migrating between the breeding grounds of Mexico and the east coast of Russia. Just to put things in your perspective, the African continent is approximately 5000 miles from north to south.
7. How Do Whales Breath:
Unlike humans, whales are voluntary breathers. They think about every breath they take. They are also a lot more efficient at gas exchange than the humans. When the whales come to the surface, they exhale first to get rid of all the stale air in their lungs and then take in fresh and clean breath. Humans, breath in first, and then exhale, leaving loads of stale air in the lungs. While we exchange just 10 to 15% of the air in our lungs with every breath we take, whales exchange about 80 to 90%. They also have a swift gas exchange. So the next time you are watching whales, listen carefully when these beasts are at the surface. You can easily hear the forceful exhale, but it will take some time to hear the faint inhale.
8. How Does Blubber Keep The Whales Warm:
Ever wondered how whales keep warm in the water, especially in the cold-water environment? We’ll tell you how! Being mammals, just like humans, whales can maintain a steady internal body temperature, regardless of the environment. In fact, the body temperature of the whales is very close to humans, varying from about 97 to 100 degrees. But the water conducts the heat away from their body 24.5 times faster than air, making heat loss a huge issue for mammals spending their time in the water.
To reduce the heat loss, whales reduce their body surface area to volume ratio using, using their blubber layer as an insulator. This retains heat through the counter-current heat exchange.
9. Do Whales Have Hair?
We’re many kids must have had this question in their mind. And it’s relatively impossible to ascertain whether a whale has hair or not just by seeing their pictures. But you don’t have to wonder anymore as we’ve got the answer for you. All the mammals have hair at some point in their life, and whales are no exception. The tiny hairs are found around the tip of the rostrum, while most of which are lost before or shortly after the birth.
10. How Do Whales Communicate?
Whales communicate in several ways. They make physical contact, create sounds and use body langue. The large sized whale can communicate over huge distances, even the entire ocean basins using very low frequencies.
11. The Mouth Of A Whale:
The mouth of a whale has fascinating rows of plates fringed with bristle, which helps it filter Plankton from the water. This plate looks like a mustache of long bristles on the end of each plate that helps it hold this minute prey. With each mouthful, a whale can hold up to 5000 kilograms of plankton and water. After forcing the water out of its mouth, the whale licks the bristles with its fleshy tongues.
12. Conservation Status Of Whales:
The intensive hunting by the whalers in the 1990s seeking whale oil drove the whales to the brink of extinction. Thousands of whales were killed. But the International Whaling Commission gave them protection in the year 1996, but the only slight recovery has been seen since then. Blue Whales are classified as endangered on the World Conservation Union Red List. It is estimated that just 10,000 to 25,000 blue whales now swim across the world’s oceans.
We hope you and your kids enjoyed reading these facts. If you have some more facts about whales for kids to add to the list, tell us by commenting below!
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