23 Absolutely Huge Facts About Whales!
Take a deep breath and quit your blubbering! It's time to dive in to these interesting facts about whales!
Whales are some of the most amazing animals on Earth. Well, on sea. You know what we mean. As you'll find out they're huge, vulnerable, intelligent and well, sometimes pretty funny looking.
1. The blue whale is the largest animal EVER!
You might already know that the blue whale is the largest animal alive right now - but did you know it's also larger than any animal that's ever lived? That's right! It's bigger than even the biggest dinosaurs. What an honour for us to be alive at the same time as it!
2. But how big is it?
They really are huge. Just the blue whale's tongue on its own can weigh as much as an elephant! Blue whales can grow to a whopping 33 metres in length! That's around the length of two school buses!
3. Many whales sing!
Not all whales sing, but the ones that do show real talent. Humpback whales have amazingly complicated songs, that they use to communicate with other whales over great distances. Whales in other parts of the world also sing in slightly different patterns - kind of like a regional accent!
4. The oldest whales
As well as being the biggest, some whales are the oldest animals on Earth. The bowhead whale for instance can live up to 200 years old! In 2000, a whale was found with a piece of harpoon in it's back, that was dated as 130 years old! This means that there are whales out there that remember being hunted by the Victorians!
5. Mum's the boss!
In killer whale groups, the oldest female whale is DEFINTELY in charge! The whales, also called orcas, have tightly knit social groups and work amazingly well as a team.
6. Belugas are really social!
As well as being really chirpy singers (Belugas are nicknamed the "canaries of the sea"), these bright white creatures are super playful. They're also one of the very few animals to be able to swim backwards!
7. Grey whales can swim a really long way!
Every year, grey whales swim about 10,000 miles! This is one of the longest migrations of any mammal!
8. Humans are really gross
Ok, maybe not ALL humans. But definitely the humans that used to hunt sperm whales were. Inside a sperm whale's highly intelligent head is a very clever organ called the spermaceti organ, which is basically a big sack of oil that helps the whale balance and echolocate. More on this next! This oil was much sought after by humans, who wanted it for their oil lamps. This almost drove the sperm whale to extinction - but thankfully they've recovered a bit now.
9. Echolocation is very cool
Echolocation is a really amazing ability that dolphins and many whales have. When they make clicking noises, the sound travels through the water and bounces off objects like rocks, fish or other animals, and comes back to their head. Whales and dolphins have evolved a way to use this sound to find food and find their way around in the sea. It's hard for us humans to imagine how this works because our brains just don't have it!
10. Whales are also deep divers
YET ANOTHER cool thing whales can do is hold their breath for a really long time! This lets them dive really deep - the Cuvier beaked whale has been recorded diving 2 MILES beneath the surface of the ocean!
11. There are 2 types of whales!
These two groups are baleen whales and toothed whales. Baleen whales like blue and humpback whales feed by sucking huge amounts of water through a kind of seive thing in their mouth (a baleen - like in this picture). Toothed whales like beluga and killer whales, have big teeth that allow them to eat things like squid, fish and seals. Mmmm.
12. Some whales "bubble feed"
Bubble feeding is a really intelligent way of getting your dinner. Groups of whales will work together to blow streams of bubbles in circles around their prey. Fish are afraid of the bubbles and won't cross them, and the whales corral them into a small space to make them easier to eat. It takes real teamwork!
13. Humpback whales only eat for half the year
Humpbacks eat as much as they can for half the year, and put on enough fat to last the rest of the year without eating anything at all!
14. Narwhal tusks!
This very cool animal is the Narwhal, probably the spikiest whale out there! It's tusk is actually technically a tooth!
15. Whales need your help!
Like many animals on Earth, whales are threatened by humans and our (frankly ridiculous) behaviour. As human societies get bigger and bigger, we're putting more and more pressure on ecosystems, and these often have serious consequences that we didn't expect. It's up to us to change our ways! This means everyday things like recycling, but also learning about science and making sure the people in charge do their job. Lets get to work!
16. You could swim through a blue whale's blood vessel!
The blue whale is enormous in comparison to humans. A fully-grown human could actually swim through the whale’s blood vessels! Not that you'd want to, of course.
17. A blue whale's heart is massive!
A blue whale’s heart is around the size of a Volkswagen Beetle.
18. Whales: fans of krill!
This gentle giant actually feeds on one of the smallest creatures in the ocean – the humble krill. A single blue whale can eat up to four tonnes of krill in just one day, which is the equivalent weight of six cows.
19. Krill: not a fan of whales!
Krill will dive down 320 metres every day to try to avoid the blue whales. That's around three times as high as the Eiffel Tower - wow!
20. Scientists are really interested in whale snot!
Scientists fly drones called SnotBots into the plumes whales shoot out of their blowholes to collect their boogers for research.
21. When a whale farts, they create huge bubbles!
The blue whale can create a fart bubble so big you could fit a horse inside of it!
22. A whale's tail is really, really wide!
The blue whale’s tail – or flukes, as the sections are actually called – can be as wide as four single beds!
23. If a whale is attacked, they'll do a poo to protect themselves!
When under attack, sperm whales blast out clouds of poo. It’s rich in iron and nitrogen that help fertilise the ocean. It's also not very nice for the whale's attacker!