Whales live in the sea but are not fish. They are an order of mammals that give birth to their young alive in the water. They also breathe air through their lungs, but they can also dive underwater for very long periods without taking a breath. When they come up to exhale the stale air, you can often see them puffing up some water as well.
You can tell whales are mammals by their skin. Because they don’t have scales. Another feature is their fluke, which is what the caudal fin is called. She stands transversely, while the caudal fins of sharks and other fish stand erect.
Blue whales are the largest whale species, they grow up to 33 meters long. They are therefore by far the largest and heaviest animals on earth. Other species such as dolphins and porpoises only grow to 2 to 3 meters.
A distinction is made between toothed whales and baleen whales. Baleen whales like the blue whale or the humpback whale or the gray whale do not have teeth but baleen. These are horn plates that they use like a sieve to filter algae and small crabs out of the water. Toothed whales, on the other hand, include sperm whales, dolphins, and killer whales. They eat fish, seals, or seabirds.
What endangers the whales?
Because many whale species live in arctic waters, they have a thick layer of fat. It protects against the cold. In the past, whales were often hunted because their fat was used: as food, lamp oil or to make soap from it. Today almost all countries have banned whaling.
Whales live in herds and communicate underwater using sounds that are also called “whale songs”. However, the noise of large ships or the sounds of underwater equipment confuses many whales. This is one reason why there are fewer and fewer whales.
The third danger comes from the poison in the water. Above all, heavy metals and chemical substances weaken the whales. Plastic waste is also a major hazard because the whales swallow it with them.
How do whales reproduce?
Most whales are only ready to mate once a year. This is also related to their migrations through the oceans. Whales keep changing their partnership.
Female whales carry their young in their stomachs between nine and 16 months. Usually, it is only a single cub. After birth, a baby whale has to come to the surface of the water to breathe.
As mammals, the young whales get milk from their mother, which is usually not enough for two. Therefore, one of the twins usually dies. Because the young have no lips to suckle, the mother squirts the milk into the baby’s mouth. She has special muscles for that. The suckling period lasts at least four months, in some species more than a year.
Depending on the species, a whale must be seven to ten years old before it reaches sexual maturity. The sperm whale is even 20 years old. This is one of the reasons why whales reproduce very slowly. Whales can live 50 to 100 years.