Whales are fascinating creatures that spend their entire lives in the sea. Although they are mammals, they are fully adapted to life in the water. They can be found in various parts of the ocean, from the Antarctic to the Arctic, and in equatorial or offshore waters.
In this article, we will take a closer look at the physical characteristics and habits of these magnificent creatures.
Physical Characteristics of Whales
Whales are massive animals that can range from 1 to 30 meters in length. They have bare skin with only a few hairs on their snouts, and they lack sweat and sebaceous glands. Their forelimbs are flipper-like, and their hindlimbs have completely degenerated, leaving only small bone fragments in the body.
The skin at the end of their tail expands from side to side to form a horizontal caudal fin, which helps with swimming. Some species have a dorsal fin, but most do not.
Whales have small eyes, no nictitating membrane, and no lacrimal glands, which means they have poor vision. They have one or two external nostrils, located on the top of their heads, commonly known as fumaroles. Although they lack a pinna, they have sensitive hearing.
Habits of Whales
Whales in the Southern Ocean mainly feed on krill, a small shrimp-like animal, but they also consume some crustacean zooplankton, such as copepods. Toothed whales, such as sperm whales, eat mainly squid and fish. Whales do not drink seawater; instead, they extract water from their food by metabolizing fats.
Whales have a unique breathing habit known as "fountain" breathing. When they surface, they exhale forcefully through their blowhole, creating a distinctive spray. When they sleep, they rely on their left and right brain to take turns resting to regulate surface breathing.
Whales breed outside Antarctica, usually once a year, with one litter per litter. The gestation period is generally 9 to 12 months, but it can be longer for some species, such as the blue whale, which has a gestation period of 12 months. Sperm whales have a longer gestation period of 16 months.
Whales have a constant body temperature of about 35.4 ℃. They have bare skin with only a few setae on their muzzle, and they lack sweat and sebaceous glands. Their thick layer of fat under their skin keeps them warm and helps with swimming.
Place of Residence
Whales live in oceans around the world, and their specific ranges vary by species. They float easily in the water due to their body fat.
Sperm whales swim at a slower speed, generally 10 kilometers per hour, and the fastest is 25 kilometers. Whales can dive into the deep sea of 200 to 300 meters for up to 2 hours, which is impressive.
Whales are well-suited to life in the sea, allowing them to swim freely in their own world. They have unique physical characteristics and habits that make them fascinating creatures. Learning about these magnificent animals can help us appreciate the beauty and diversity of our oceans.