The Amazing World of Whales

4 min read

An orca whale


Whales are enormous creatures, and sometimes these are the kind of animals that we have come to fear. You might have heard about different types of whales particularly, the blue whale or the orca whale. They may sound like fearsome predators but these whales can also be gentle giants. There are about 90 species of cetaceans around the world, a group of aquatic mammals, including whales, dolphins, and porpoises. Read on for some fun facts on why we should take care and love them!

 

What Whales Provide

Whales play a significant role in terrestrial and marine ecosystems. They fight global warming, maintain the fish population, and provides at least half of the world's oxygen. You want to know how? Whales bring nutrients to phytoplankton.

Phytoplankton, also called microalgae, are also similar to plants as they also have chlorophyll and uses sunlight to photosynthesize. They stay afloat in the ocean, and they provide food for different sea creatures. Like a terrestrial plant, they absorb thousands of tons of carbon dioxide, which helps fight global warming. Also, in terms of producing oxygen, they are responsible for at least 50% of the world's oxygen.

Whales provide the nutrients to the phytoplankton. How? Here's the cycle. Whales feed on krill and plankton in the ocean's deepest parts. When it's their time to defecate, they come near the surface and release their excrement. It then floats to the ocean and gives nutrients to the drifting phytoplankton.

 

Whales and the Food Chain

Whales have a role in the food chain. They can either be the predator, which eats krills, planktons, squids, and fishes. On the other hand, they can be prey to other whales, sharks, and by man. They contribute to the balance of the marine system. And like any other animal, their place matters in the food chain. When a whale dies, its remains sink in the seabed, and they take large amounts of carbon with them, helping to stabilize the climate. Their carcasses are called a whale fall, which serves as a mini-ecosystem for other marine life that can last for decades.

 

 Whales are Family-Oriented

After birth, whales can form a bond with their mom through nursing. Yes, they breastfeed underwater since they are mammals, but researchers are still not able to find out how they do it. Based on research, certain species of whales, like belugas and orcas, value their family ties and culture. Surprisingly, beluga whales can come back to the place where they were born after a year of migrating. What's more amazing is how they can pass on this geographic knowledge to their offsprings. Meanwhile, killer whales migrate and hunt in groups. In some cases, four generations of orcas can be seen traveling together in the vast seas. That is around four to forty whales in a group. Some killer whales maintain their close bond with their mom and other family members even when they reach adulthood.

 

Whales are Friendly

Whales are non-violent and rarely hurt humans. There might be instances where they feel threatened, so they may show a little bit of aggressiveness, which is infrequent. Humans don't often get close enough to whales because, well, most of us would be scared to swim with them. The world's friendliest whale is called the Grey Whale. They are often seen playing in clear water and curious about humans. They can be found on the coast of North America and they travel between Alaska and Mexico every year. You can see whales by attending whale watching events, wherein you can learn more about them, their habitat, and how they react around humans.

 

Whales are Smart

Whales have sophisticated minds, and they can pass on their intelligence from generation to generation. Whales have large brains (sperm whales have the largest), and they have special brain cells called spindle neurons. It allows them to have advanced abilities like communicating, adaptive to change, perceiving, remembering, and recognizing. Whales are also able to socialize with humans and have their own social networks, which was observed when they travel or migrate into groups.

 

 

Whale Fun Facts:

  • Baby whales or calves are born about 25 percent of their mother’s size in length. Mom whales nurse their calves that grow to close bonds.
  • A Whale's gestation period is 11 to 16 months.
  • It is normal for a calf to be born tail first to prevent drowning. Mom whales encourage them to swim to the surface to breathe.
  • Ambergris is a substance that is produced by the sperm whale's digestive system. It can sometimes be found on beaches or coastlines. Some companies use it for perfumes so that it sticks longer. It is expensive and hard to find.
  • Whales have two categories: Toothed and Untoothed.
  • Untoothed whales have plates in their mouth that are called Baleen, similar to fingernails. Popular untoothed whales are the blue whale, humpback, bowhead, and right whales.
  • Whale calls or whale vocalizations can be heard from miles underwater. These are how they communicate. It consists of howls, cries, or moans that they can do for hours.
  • Whales are one of the longest-lived mammals. Experts say that bowhead whales can live more than 200 years and orcas can live up to 100 years or more, Amazing!
  • The Antarctic Blue Whale is the largest animal in the world. It weighs up to 400,000 pounds, which is about 33 elephants and can be 98 feet in length.
  • Killer whales often travel in groups and highly sociable. Their group is called matrifocal, which is focusing on the mother. You got to remember free Willy for this!

 

 

Care For The Whales

Whales are close to our hearts, and to show our love for them, we should protect them and care for their habitat. You can do this in your own simple way of keeping your surroundings clean, recycling things, not polluting any bodies of water, supporting organizations that help the whales or protect the seas, and respecting them when you go on tours. You can also share good things about them so other people will be encouraged to the same.

 

Sources:

WHALE AND DOLPHIN SPECIES GUIDE https://us.whales.org/whales-dolphins/species-guide/

10 Wonderful Whale Facts https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/feature-story/10-wonderful-whale-facts


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