Humpback whale tail flip off coast of Moloka'i, Hawaii, 2005
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Whale

Whales are the largest species of exclusively aquatic mammals, members of the order Cetacea, which also includes dolphins and porpoises. They are the largest mammals, the largest vertebrates, and the largest animals in the world. more...

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The term whale is ambiguous: it can refer to all cetaceans, to just the larger ones, or only to members of particular families within the order Cetacea. The latter definition is the one followed here. Whales are those cetaceans which are neither dolphins (i.e. members of the families Delphinidae or Platanistoidea), nor porpoises. This can lead to some confusion because Orcas ("Killer Whales") and Pilot Whales have "whale" in their name, but they are dolphins for the purpose of classification.

Origins and taxonomy

Whales, along with most dolphins and porpoises, are descendants of land-living mammals, most likely of the Artiodactyl order. They entered the water roughly 50 million years ago. See evolution of cetaceans for the details .

Cetaceans are divided into two suborders:

  • The baleen whales are characterized by the baleen, a sieve-like structure in the upper jaw made of keratin, which they use to filter plankton from the water. They are the largest whales.
  • The toothed whales have teeth and prey on fish, squid, or both. An outstanding ability of this group is to sense their surrounding environment through echolocation.

A complete up-to-date taxonomical listing of all cetacean species, including all whales, is maintained at the Cetacea article.

Anatomy

Like all mammals, whales breathe air into lungs, are warm-blooded (that is, endothermic), breast-feed their young, and have some (although very little) hair. The whales' ancestors lived on land, and their adaptions to a fully aquatic life are quite striking: The body is fusiform, resembling the streamlined form of a fish. The forelimbs, also called flippers, are paddle-shaped. The end of the tail holds the fluke, or tail fins, which provide propulsion by vertical movement. Although whales generally do not possess hind limbs, some whales (such as sperm whales, baleen whales, and humpback whales) have been seen having rudimentary hind limbs; some even with feet and digits. Most species of whale bear a fin on their backs known as a dorsal fin.

Beneath the skin lies a layer of fat, the blubber. It serves as an energy reservoir and also as insulation. Whales have a four-chambered heart. The neck vertebrae are fused in most whales, which provides stability during swimming at the expense of flexibility.

Whales breathe through blowholes, located on the top of the head so the animal can remain submerged. Baleen whales have two; toothed whales have one. When exhaling after a dive, a spout can be seen from the right perspective, the shape of which differs among the species. Whales have a unique respiratory system that lets them stay underwater for long periods of time without taking in any oxygen. Some whales, such as the Sperm Whale, can stay underwater for up to two hours holding a single breath.

Read more at Wikipedia.org


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Big 20" Plush Seaworld Park Lovey Shamu Killer Whale Orca Stuffed Animal PrizeBig 20" Plush Seaworld Park Lovey Shamu Killer Whale Orca Stuffed Animal Prize $28.99 Lighthouse Pattern Shower Curtain Fabric Decor Set with Hooks 4 SizesLighthouse Pattern Shower Curtain Fabric Decor Set with Hooks 4 Sizes $29.99 to $49.99
Silver Toned Etched Whale Business Card HolderSilver Toned Etched Whale Business Card Holder $85.14 The Whale Who Won Hearts!: And More True Stories of Adventures with Animals by BThe Whale Who Won Hearts!: And More True Stories of Adventures with Animals by B $7.54
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Killer Whales up Close by Jody Sullivan RakeKiller Whales up Close by Jody Sullivan Rake $7.71 Singing Whales and Flying Squid : The Discovery of Marine Life by Richard EllisSinging Whales and Flying Squid : The Discovery of Marine Life by Richard Ellis $3.99
Humpback or Blue whale glass irredescent mounted on burl wood live edge baseHumpback or Blue whale glass irredescent mounted on burl wood live edge base $15.50 Lighthouse Curtains 2 Panel Set Decor 5 Sizes Available Window DrapesLighthouse Curtains 2 Panel Set Decor 5 Sizes Available Window Drapes $62.99 to $79.99
Various Artists : Seascape: Dolphins and Whales Cd (2007)Various Artists : Seascape: Dolphins and Whales Cd (2007) $3.99 Free-Hand Cartoon Characters Print Cotton Throw Pillows Cushion Case Vplc_03Free-Hand Cartoon Characters Print Cotton Throw Pillows Cushion Case Vplc_03 $10.50
Christmas Wine Bottle Stopper - WhaleChristmas Wine Bottle Stopper - Whale $9.99 The Great Whale of Kansas (ExLib) by Richard W. JenningsThe Great Whale of Kansas (ExLib) by Richard W. Jennings $3.99
Heyokah : A Whale of a Tale to Unravel the Veil and Release Ancient Memory.Heyokah : A Whale of a Tale to Unravel the Veil and Release Ancient Memory. $7.4 00004000 3 Lilly Pulitzer Whale Samsung Galaxy S3 S4 S5 S6 S7 Edge S8 S9 Plus Note Case 2Lilly Pulitzer Whale Samsung Galaxy S3 S4 S5 S6 S7 Edge S8 S9 Plus Note Case 2 $14.90
Jonah and the Whale 2 in 1 Readalong Book & Cd by Weinbeck, DarcyJonah and the Whale 2 in 1 Readalong Book & Cd by Weinbeck, Darcy $3.99 For Apple iPhone Xs Max 6.5 inch Slim Design Tpu Clear Silicone Gel Case CoverFor Apple iPhone Xs Max 6.5 inch Slim Design Tpu Clear Silicone Gel Case Cover $9.99
Inside Nature's Giants: Sperm Whale (2012, Dvd Neuf)Inside Nature's Giants: Sperm Whale (2012, Dvd Neuf) $13.63 B000Ot6E8O Humphrey the Lost Whale : A True Story of Wendy and Richards CoveraB000Ot6E8O Humphrey the Lost Whale : A True Story of Wendy and Richards Covera $45.98
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In the Mouth of the Whale (Quiet War) (Paperback)In the Mouth of the Whale (Quiet War) (Paperback) $16.55 Antique Rare! Arts And Craft-Nautical Whale- Wall Scone Pair! Heavy Cast Mt/IronAntique Rare! Arts And Craft-Nautical Whale- Wall Scone Pair! Heavy Cast Mt/Iron $128.00
Dolphins and Whales : White Star Guides - Underwater WorldDolphins and Whales : White Star Guides - Underwater World $4.36 Remarkable Observations the Whaling Journal of Peleg Folger 1751-54Remarkable Observations the Whaling Journal of Peleg Folger 1751-54 $23.39
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