You may have heard about whales from Animal Planet channel or school. However, did you know there are a variety of whales and that these majestic sea creatures are mammals and not fish? Here we have the best facts about whales for kids!
Whales have divided into two groups – toothed whales and baleen whales. The toothed whales such as a sperm whale or killer whale use their teeth to frighten away predators and catch prey, such as fish and squid. Baleen whales have a comb-like structure in their mouths called baleen. Baleen whales include whales such as the Humpback whale and the largest whale of all, the Blue whale. This structure is located on the upper jaw and works like a filter to catch crustaceans, small fish and plankton.
Mammals in the Water
Whales are mammals; hence they have lungs and need air. While their bodies are shaped like fish to facilitate effortless movement in the water, whales come out periodically to breathe. They breathe through structures known as blowholes, which are located at the top of their head. Toothed whales have one blowhole, while baleen whales have two.
Under their skin, whales have a thick layer of fat known as blubber. This fat layer works as insulation and is also a reservoir of energy.
Killer Whale Breaching
Photo Credit: Kim (CC License)
Where’s the Food?
Baleen whales relish planktons and krill, which are shrimp-like creatures found in oceans. On the other hand, tooth whales actively hunt down seals, salmon, cod and tuna. The diet of a whale is dependent on which species it belongs to.
It is not uncommon for whales to migrate long distances. Every year whales migrate from cold waters where they feed to warm waters where they breed. This migration can happen in a group, known as pod. However, whales are not averse to migrating on their own.
Toothed whales hunt in groups and even form groups to share the duties of raising young whales, which are called calves. The group can consist of just females or males.
Toothed whales also use echolocation that allows them to find food, judge how far an object is from them and also whether the object is big or small. Echolocation is nothing but a high-pitched sound that the whales emit and the sound waves bounce off from the surrounding objects and return to the whale, letting it get all the information it needs about its surroundings.
Babies R Us
The mating season of the whale varies on the species, just like the gestation period, which can range from 10 months to 17 months. The female whale gives birth to a single offspring and the mother nourishes it with milk. Mothers nurse their offspring for about a year, if not more and this creates a strong bond between mothers and calves.
Threat to Whales
Between 17th and 20th centuries, whales were hunted down for their blubber, which was used for extracting oil, and food. While whale hunting has become a thing of the past, many species are endangered.
Today, climate change poses the biggest threat to the survival of whales. Furthermore, whales are also facing a decline in their food sources. However, efforts are on to educate deep-sea fishermen about protecting these food sources and governments are actively involved in protecting whale habitat in the Arctic and Antarctic regions.
Photo Credit: Gregory “Greg” Smith (CC License)
Interesting Facts about Whales
- The age of a whale can be determined by looking at the wax in the whale’s ear.
- Whales have a strange way of sleeping. Just half their brain goes to sleep, as whales need to come out of water to breathe. If they forget, they drown.
- Whales living in the Northern and Southern hemispheres never meet, as they come at different times to breeding grounds.
- Whales can make mistakes while navigating, but they do not realize it until they get stranded or beached.
- The largest animal in the world is a whale and it is the blue whale.
- Baleen whales love to sing. Experts reckon they sing during the mating season to inform females about their vigor and strength
- A fin whale urinates 970 litres every day and this amount of urine can fill three bathtubs!
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