Amazing Whale Facts
Over 8000 humpback whales migrate from Alaska to the shores of the Hawaiian Islands each year, and Body Glove Cruises can get you a front row seat! Here are some fun facts about these fascinating creatures:
Fact #1: Not All Whales Have Teeth
Out of the eighty-four species of whales, each species can be separated into one of two types: baleen whales or toothed whales. As the name implies, toothed whales have teeth. This helps them to tear meat and capture food. Dolphins (a group that includes Orcas) are the largest group of toothed cetacean mammals. The largest species of toothed whale is the cachalot, or sperm whale.
Baleen whales, on the other hand, are without teeth. Instead, these whales have a type of filter that’s built into their mouths to help separate water from food (a process called “filter feeding”). The humpback whale and the blue whale are both species of baleen whale.
Fact #2: A Whale Rests One Part of its Brain at a Time
Whales are marine mammals, which means they have lungs—not gills. Because whales require oxygen, they frequently come to the surface to get air. As a result, whales can’t sleep for long periods of time—they simply can’t hold their breath that long! Instead, whales put their brains in sleep mode, one half at a time. According to Scientific American, baby whales (or, calves) sleep by being pulled along in their mother’s slipstream. This is common for most whales and dolphins, including Humpbacks.
Fact #3: The Largest Whale Weighs Almost 13 Times More Than the Heaviest Land Mammal
Most people think of elephants when they think of big animals, but the largest species of whale—blue whales—have elephants beat by a long shot. To put this into perspective, consider this: the largest elephant in recorded history weighed 24,000 pounds. In comparison, a male blue whale can weigh up to 330,000 pounds! A newborn blue whale weighs, on average, 6,000 pounds and gains 200 pounds of weight per day. The average humback is 23-30 tons
Fact #4: Whales Talk to Each Other
The most famous communicator of the sea is the humpback whale—a species known for its singing. Humpback whale songs can travel for miles within the ocean, and are formed by a collection of howls, cries, moans, and other noises. While scientists are still trying to figure out exactly what all these sounds could mean, it’s hypothesized that the songs are used as a means of communication between whales or for mating purposes.
Fact #5: A Whale’s Age Can Be Determined by its Earwax
You may have heard about counting the rings around a tree trunk to determine a tree’s age, but have you ever heard of counting the layers of earwax to determine a whale’s? That’s right—scientists have determined deceased whales’ ages by counting the layers of earwax found in the whales’ ear canals. Biologists at Baylor University in Texas have also used this method to determine the types of pollutants whales are exposed to.
Fact #6: Whales Have Only One Predator
Being the largest creatures in the sea, most whales have only one predator—and it’s not a creature that’s found in the ocean.
The biggest dangers to whales are humans, which have hunted whales and polluted ocean waters for years. While whales are now considered a protected species, many species of whales are still struggling to make a recovery from the early 1900s, when whales were aggressively hunted. Today, environmental efforts are also working to ensure clean oceans and a hospitable climate for whales.
Whales are magnificent creatures, and protecting them is important. Thankfully, some whale populations are beginning to increase. This season’s whale watching off the Kona coast has been the greatest in years! Join Body Glove Cruises on one of our early afternoon excursions for what may very well become the centerpiece of your vacation story!