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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The Squid and the Whale + Running with Scissors (Blu-ray Disc, 2013) Near Mint!The Squid and the Whale + Running with Scissors (Blu-ray Disc, 2013) Near Mint! $6.89 Wally the Whale Dish SetWally the Whale Dish Set $39.00
Blue Whale Puppet 30 inch - Stuffed Animal by Puppet Company (009709)Blue Whale Puppet 30 inch - Stuffed Animal by Puppet Company (009709) $29.99 2010 Vancouver Olympic Poster. Orca Whales Faster Higher Strpnger (Lot of 5)2010 Vancouver Olympic Poster. Orca Whales Faster Higher Strpnger (Lot of 5) $45.00
Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home Movie Poster Killer Whale Film 1995Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home Movie Poster Killer Whale Film 1995 $3.15 00004000
Jacques Cousteau : Whales - oversize book00004000 Jacques Cousteau : Whales - oversize book $7.99
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Whale Rider (Dvd, 2003, Special Edition)Whale Rider (Dvd, 2003, Special Edition) $7.99 Whale Wars: Second Season 2 Two (Dvd, 2009, 2-Disc Set)Whale Wars: Second Season 2 Two (Dvd, 2009, 2-Disc Set) $11.48
Toyi 8" Whale Figure ToyToyi 8" Whale Figure Toy $3.25 Blue Whale Marine Stainless Steel Polished Door Butt Hinge (pair) (3" x 1-1/2")Blue Whale Marine Stainless Steel Polished Door Butt Hinge (pair) (3" x 1-1/2") $11.99
Mint Stamps of the World - Kiribati Whales - May 2, 1994Mint Stamps of the World - Kiribati Whales - May 2, 1994 $19.95 Formac Pocketguide to Whale Watching on Canada's East Coast by Jeffrey C. DommFormac Pocketguide to Whale Watching on Canada's East Coast by Jeffrey C. Domm $5.80
Sterling Silver Orca whale charmSterling Silver Orca whale charm $7.05 Vineyard Vines Navy Blue Patchwork Belt Mermaids Feet Whales Crabs Fish sz 36Vineyard Vines Navy Blue Patchwork Belt Mermaids Feet Whales Crabs Fish sz 36 $28.99
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 Hedy Lamarr, Jean Parker, James Whales, Tarzan from 12/11/1938Seein' Stars: 00004000 Hedy Lamarr, Jean Parker, James Whales, Tarzan from 12/11/1938 $12.00 If I Were a Whale (Board Book)If I Were a Whale (Board Book) $9.59 List price:  Previous Price $11.51
Songs of the Humpback Whale by Jodi PicoultSongs of the Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult $3.99 Whale Orca Killer Up Over Sealife(2) fabric pillow panels 14x14Whale Orca Killer Up Over Sealife(2) fabric pillow panels 14x14 $11.89
Berried to the Hilt (Gray Whale Inn Mystery) by MacInerney, KarenBerried to the Hilt (Gray Whale Inn Mystery) by MacInerney, Karen $9.99 Large Whale Shark Sterling Silver Pendant by Peter Stone Unique Fine JewelryLarge Whale Shark Sterling Silver Pendant by Peter Stone Unique Fine Jewelry $88.00
Whale Hunt in the Desert : Secrets of a Vegas Superhost by Deke Castleman.Whale Hunt in the Desert : Secrets of a Vegas Superhost by Deke Castleman. $12.49 Spoon Pewter Orca Whale Figurine, 2.5 inches long, good used conditionSpoon Pewter Orca Whale Figurine, 2.5 inches long, good used condition $4.99
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Romeow and Juliet (Whales and Tails Mystery) (Volume 1) by Daley, KathiRomeow and Juliet (Whales and Tails Mystery) (Volume 1) by Daley, Kathi $15.95 Barbie Mattel Keiko Orca Whale Scuba Set Jet Ski Accessories Snorkel 1997 1990'sBarbie Mattel Keiko Orca Whale Scuba Set Jet Ski Accessories Snorkel 1997 1990's $18.25
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Bananafish Studio Anchors Away Comforter with Whale PlushBananafish Studio Anchors Away Comforter with Whale Plush $19.50 Quaker Nantucket: The Religious Community Behind the Whaling EmpireQuaker Nantucket: The Religious Community Behind the Whaling Empire $22.95
Sunbird handcrafted porcelain glaze whale broochSunbird handcrafted porcelain glaze whale brooch $4.00 Vintage Bulova Men's Gold Plated Sea King Whale Automatic Date WatchVintage Bulova Men's Gold Plated Sea King Whale Automatic Date Watch $99.99
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Baby Safety Bath Seat Extra Long Non-Slip Bath Mat w/ Heat Sensitive Blue WhaleBaby Safety Bath Seat Extra Long Non-Slip Bath Mat w/ Heat Sensitive Blue Whale $25.99 Vintage 1993 SeaWorld Shamu Killer Whale Shark Made in Usa Men's Medium ShirtVintage 1993 SeaWorld Shamu Killer Whale Shark Made in Usa Men's Medium Shirt $14.00
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Vintage Imperial Toys Orca Whale Killer WhaleVintage Imperial Toys Orca Whale Killer Whale $4.99 Two Whales On Marble Base - Special Patina Two Whales On Marble Base - Special Patina  $1,325.00
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