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World map showing location of whale pod off the northeast coast of the U.S.

WHALES

Everyone knows about whales, right? Here are some interesting facts that you may not know:

• Whales are mammals – and are descendants of land-living mammals.
• They are cetaceans – as are dolphins and porpoises. These are all considered to be highly intelligent.
• Whales are the closest living relative to the hippo.
• The “Killer Whale” has the word “whale” in its name, but is actually a type of dolphin.
• Whales have ears – and communicate in lyrical sounds, called “whale songs”!

Whales, being mammals, breathe air into their lungs, feed their young milk, and are warm-blooded. They also have hair, but not much. Like cattle, the males are called bulls; the females are called cows; and the young ones are called calves.

They get the air through the “blowhole” in the top of their body on the head. Whales can stay underwater with one big breath for a long period of time. In fact some have been noted to stay under as long as two hours with one breath!

Whales are very large, about 100 feet long and weight about 150 tons. The Blue Whale is the largest living animal and is the largest mammal to have ever lived.

Under their skin is a thick layer of blubber to help keep them warm and it helps them store up a lot of energy. For many years people would catch whales to get the oil from the blubber as well as whale meat for food. Today there are laws against whaling, although some countries are allowed to still catch whales.

The number of whales had gone down dangerously for many years, but the numbers are very slowly going back up. Scientists think that whales can live a long time, almost 100 years – but generally they live between 30 and 90 years.