Whale Facts



Modified: 31 May 2023

whale facts

Whales have long been swimming around the waters of the Earth for who knows how long. They are not just the giants of the ocean, but of the whole animal kingdom. Many people may know what they look like, but only a few know more about them. Prepare to dive into these whale facts!

  1. Whales are the world’s largest animals.
  2. Every single ocean on Earth is a whale habitat.
  3. Whales are mammals, meaning they are warm-blooded and breathe air.
  4. The 2 main types of whales are toothed and baleen.
  5. Types of whales are grouped into 8 families, all fully-adapted to living in the water.
  1. As cetaceans, whales are in the same group as dolphins and porpoises.
  2. Whales are descendants of the Artiodactyl, a land-living dinosaur species.
  3. A whale could weigh from 500 pounds to 200 tons, depending on the type.
  4. Whales could hold their breath for an average of 60 minutes.
  5. Most baleen whales have either visible hair or hair follicles.
  6. Whale hair follicles have the same location as whiskers on terrestrial mammals.
  7. Hunters catch whales for their meat and bones, and for medicinal purposes.
  8. Sperm whales rely heavily on echolocation due to their eyes’ inability to swivel in the sockets.
  9. Killer whales are not whales and are the largest dolphins species instead.
  10. Also known as orcas, killer whales are among the most powerful predators in the world.
  1. The length of a blue whale is equivalent to a Boeing 737 or 3 double-decker buses.
  2. The weight of a blue whale equals that of 40 African elephants or 3,333 humans.
  3. Sperm whales have the largest brains among the animals in the world.
  4. In a whale’s brain, only one hemisphere at a time is asleep.
  5. The closest living relative of the whales is the hippopotamus.
Table of Contents

Whales produce sounds that could be heard from miles underwater.

The songs of the whales consist of complex combinations of cries, howls, and moans. Moreover, it could last for hours.

Whale songs are patterned sequence sounds.

The songs are not necessarily mating calls as their complexities require learning from other whales. Some of the singer whales are blue whales, bowhead whales, humpback, fin whales, minke whales, and sperm whales.

Whale singing still has unknown purposes.

whale songs, whale facts
Image by Domingo Trejo from Pixabay

Another variation to consider is the diversity of the songs sung. Among humpback whales, only the males could sing. However, other types still have no known records of the same gender differences.

Whales possibly communicate through the songs.

The ocean giants produce the sounds by pushing air around their heads. Then, they amplify it through the fat blob perched on their jaw tops, spreading out thousands of miles away.

Whale diet depends on their type, species, size, environment, and social structure.

The range could go from small aquatic life forms like shrimp and squid to larger marine animals like seals and sharks.

Scientific studies show that whales have similar cells with that of human social interaction cells.

It means that the ocean giants also have the capacity to teach, learn, cooperate, grieve, and even scheme.

Body position and angle are vital to whale mating.

Like their cousins, the dolphins and porpoises, whales do not have appendages to hold one another in place. They could also do speedy mating and have dextrous penises from where they release sperm quickly.

The name for male whales is 'bulls.'

mommy whale and baby whale
Image by Gabriel Barathieu from Wikimedia Commons

On the other hand, females are ‘cows,’ while newborns are ‘calves.’ They live in families called ‘pods.’

Whales give birth tail first.

This way, calves have minimized drowning tendencies. Moreover, calves mature by 7-10 years old.

The blubber of whales is energy storage.

This important body part is also responsible for insulating the body, enabling whales to survive harsh winters.

As the name suggests, toothed whales possess teeth.

They use the tools in hunting and eating. Toothed whale types include sperm whales, likewise with orcas, dolphins, and porpoises.

Baleen whales have larger physical built than toothed whales.

whale, ocean, whale facts
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Under this type are the blue whales, bowhead whales, humpbacks, and right whales. To feed, baleen whales strain krills through the fringed plates of their upper jaws-attached baleen.

First of the 8 whale families are the Rorquals (Balaenopteridae), the largest baleen whales.

Thus, they are also the largest mammals on Earth. One member of the Balaenopteridae family is the blue whale which could weigh up to 180 metric tons.

The Rorqual family has 9 existing species.

Aside from the blue whale, they also have the Antarctic minke whale, Bryde’s whale, common minke whale, Eden’s whale, fin whale, humpback whale, Omura’s whale, and sei whale.

Second is the right whales (Balaenidae) family with 3 species.

They are the North Atlantic right whale, North Pacific right whale, and Southern right whale. Also, the bowhead whale is another member of the family.

Right whales have a distinct feature of an arched upper jaw.

It is narrow as well, giving the mammal a deeply curved jawbone. Due to their long baleen plates, right whales could float near the water surface. On average, an adult Balaenidae could be as long as 45-50 feet and as heavy as 80 tons.

Monodontidae family has 2 species namely the beluga whale and the narwhal.

beluga whale, whale facts
Image by Carquinyol from Wikimedia Commons

Beluga whales are native to the northern Pacific and Atlantic oceans and are pure white in color. Meanwhile, the narwhals reside in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. Whales of this family have distinct melon-shaped foreheads.

Instead of a dorsal fin, Monodontidae whales have a slim back ridge.

While the beluga whale has numerous, simple teeth, the narwhal only has 2. One of them forms a tusk in male narwhals.

The smallest among the baleen group is the pygmy right whales (Cetotheriidae) family.

Native to the Southern Ocean along the Southern Hemisphere, the pygmy right whales fall under the cetotheres classification. They could grow up to 17.9 feet and weigh up to 3,430 kg.

Pygmy right whales were mistaken to be extinct pre-2012.

Hence, there is only little information about them. Their distinct features are their dark or light gray color with light patches behind their eyes. However, the pygmy right whale arched jawline is not pronounced enough to easily differentiate them from other species.

The gray whale (Eschrichtiidae) family is an endangered species.

Living in the North Pacific, gray whales are known for the double blow holes atop their head. They sometimes appear like a heart-shaped bow under calm waters.

The gray patches on their skin gave the gray whales their name.

grey whale
Image by samnat33 from Pixabay

Patterns of white mottling are also common on their skin. Other names for the gray whales are ‘Pacific gray whale,’ ‘gray back whale,’ and California gray whale.’

Large quantities of spermaceti are present in the heads of the sperm whales (Physeteroidea) family whales.

The initial impression of this substance was that it was sperm. Still, little is known about the fluid’s real function until today.

The deepest sperm whale distance traveled is 3,280 feet.

In other words, sperm whales would have to hold their breaths for around 90 minutes to dive that depth. One theory of the whale facts states that the spermaceti fluid hardens to wax in the cold. Such a feature would be very helpful in adapting buoyancy for diving deep and swimming up again.

The dwarf and pygmy sperm whales (Kogiidae) family are the smallest whale species.

Their average length is 8.5 feet while their average weight is 400 kilograms. Moreover, they have a square-shaped head, smaller lower jaw, and a false gill slit behind the eyes.

Kogiidae whales have organs and a body system resembling a bagpipe.

From there, they produce distinct sounds. Their defense mechanism against predators is releasing a fecal ink-like substance.

The beaked whales (Ziphiidae) family has 22 species.

All living in the deep seas, beaked whales got their name from the shape of their mouth tip. Its elongated tip gave the family their extreme diving abilities with a record of 9,816 feet for 137.5 minutes.

Toothed whales only have a pair of teeth hidden under gum tissues.

Beneath their throat, they have 2 converging grooves. However, they do not have notches, while the males have bulging heads.

Killer whales dominate at the top of the food chain.

killer whales hunting a seal
Image by Callan Carpenter from Wikimedia Commons

The diversity of their diet includes fish, penguins, and other marine mammals like seals. Killer whales have a rep for grabbing seals off the ice.

Male humpback whales are the best singers among the ocean giants.

The sounds that they produce span 7 octaves, almost the entire range of a piano.