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Marine Biology

Talk about a whale of a tale this time!  Today we’re going to be talking about whales — humpbacks, blues, greys, bowheads, rights, fins — lots of different types.  You really have to get your feet wet, and trust me, that’s what we’re going to do.


Sorry about that!  But look, on your right — a whale, mottled blue/gray.  Holy cow! It’s a blue whale! 

Blue whales are the largest and loudest creatures on Earth.  However, they are an endangered species. 

Well, there it swam.  But, wait a second.  Did you see some of the weird comb-like stuff on its mouth where the teeth should be?  That’s baleen.  Blue whales, and many other types, are baleen whales. That means that they all have baleens.  But how does it work?  What good does it for the whale?  Well, it almost works like a fish uses its gills, only it’s for feeding.  Water and krill pass through the mouth when the whale opens it.  Then, the whale filters the water out through the baleen, but the krill stays inside.  Amazing, eh?

We’re heading into waters off the Canadian coast off Nunavut.  Whoa! Watch out for that horn.  I know what you’re thinking: “A horn doesn’t magically appear under water.”  Well, in a way, it does.  That was a narwhal. 

Did you know that the word narwhal means “corpse whale?”  Sort of fits into their style: they look like a corpse and sometimes swim upside down.  Whoa! Did you see that blur of white?  That was a beluga whale.  Belugas are also common off the coast of Nunavut.  They’re nicknamed “sea canaries” because of the sounds they make.  It sounds like a canary. 

So we’ve seen three different types of whales. But there are 75 different types.  Luckily I don’t think we’ll see all of them.  Splash! Whoa, what was that?  Oh, that was a bowhead whale breaching.  Bowhead whales are black and white, but the only white spot on them is on the chin — see it?  Also, bowhead whales belong to a type of baleen whale called right whales.  They also include northern and southern right whales, pygmy right whales and gray whales.  Except for the pygmy right whale, this family of whales does not have dorsal fins.

Alright, I’ve had enough of these cold Canadian waters.  Let’s move on down to Massachusetts Bay.  Thwack!  Wow, did you hear that?  That apparently was some sort of whale lobtailing.  Lobtailing means slapping your tail on the surface of the water.  And, oh my goodness, it’s a fin whale!  Fin whales are the second largest creatures on earth.  Some are as long as a railroad passenger car! 

As a matter of fact, recently marine biologists discovered how fin whales eat with a special camera attached to a fin whale.  It was sort of an accident that turned out amazing.  The people who attached the cameras were trying to record fin whale songs.  Instead they recorded how they eat.   For the full story, go to The New York Times story.

Now, as you probably know, places like Norway and Japan still have whaling industries.  Japan has launched a big fleet of their whaling ships.  They say the hunt is only for “researching” but we definitely cannot trust them.  Greenpeace is trying to stop them and to persuade them to stop whaling for good. If you really want to help, click this link or find it on the blogroll. You can make a donation to help stop the whaling.

You can help stop whaling with me.  I hope you learned a lot!


Leave a Comment
  1. crt / Dec 14 2007 2:45 am

    Wow Miles! Call me Ishmael, that’s one heck of an entry!

    Sorry I haven’t been around in a while– I’ve been sick. But I’m looking forward to catching up on all of your blog while on Holiday vacation.

    Did you have a good Hanukkah? I look forward to more whale tails– and yup, let’s STOP WHALING!!

    your friend from AAP,

  2. miles / Dec 14 2007 8:34 pm

    Dear crt,
    I did. Whale tails? Don’t you mean flukes? Just testing you. The Greenpeace ship Esparanza is hot in pursuit of a japanese whaling fleet.

    P.S: I’m at NCC,Dad works in the admissions office.

  3. Aunt Deirdre / Dec 17 2007 7:22 pm

    Wow Miles, now you’re talking about one of my favorite creatures on Earth: whales! The photographs are great, too. That narwal is amazing and a little scary. On the other hand, I think the beluga whale is rather cute! Can’t wait until we can go together to see the humpback whales off of Cape Cod. We’ll get to go on the boat and talk to the captain and biologists / naturalists on board about the different whales that they see migrating each year.

    Your Auntie Deirdre

  4. crt / Dec 22 2007 1:08 am

    Hey Miles,

    I just read that Japan is backing off their plans to hunt humpbacks– now they just need to lay off the other 1000 or so whales that they are going after.

    Are you on school break yet? I am– and I’m really happy about that!

    Keep the Whale tales coming!

    Your friend at AAP,

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