|Humpback whale |
Whale (origin Old English hwael) is the common name for various marine mammal of the order Cetacea. The term whale is sometimes used to refer to all cetaceans, but more often it excludes dolphins and porpoises, which are also cetaceans, but belong to the suborder Odontoceti (toothed whales), which also includes the sperm whale, killer whale, pilot whale, and beluga whale. The suborder Mysticeti (baleen whales), are filter feeders that feed on small organisms caught by straining seawater through a comblike structure found in the mouth called baleen. This suborder includes the blue whale, the humpback whale the bowhead whale and the minke whales. All Cetacea have forelimbs modified as fins, a tail with horizontal flukes, and nasal openings on top of the head
Whales range in size from the blue whale, the largest animal known to have ever existed at 35 m (115 ft) and 150 tonnes (150 LT; 170 ST), to various pygmy species, such as the pygmy sperm whale at 3.5 m (11 ft).
Whales collectively inhabit all the world's oceans and number in the millions, with population growth rate estimates for various assessed species ranging from 3% to 13%. For centuries, whales have been hunted for meat and as a source of raw materials. By the middle of the 20th century, however, industrial whaling had left many species seriously endangered, leading to the end of whaling in all but a few countries.
Cetaceans are divided into two suborders:
Whales' lifespan varies among species and is the subject of some controversy, complicated by that whaling left few older individuals in the populations. R.M. Nowak of John Hopkins University estimated that humpback whales may live as long as 77 years. In 2007, a 19th century lance fragment was found in a bowhead whale off Alaska, suggesting the whale could be between 115 and 130 years old. Aspartic acid racemization in the whale eye, combined with a harpoon fragment, indicated an age of 211 years for another male, which, if true would make bowheads the longest-lived extant mammal species. The accuracy of this technique has been questioned because the degree of racemization did not correlate well with other dating methods.
Beneath the skin lies a layer of fat called blubber, which stores energy and insulates the body. Whales have a spinal column, a vestigial pelvic bone, and a four-chambered heart. The neck vertebrae are typically fused, trading flexibility for stability during swimming.
Whales breathe via blowholes; baleen whales have two and toothed whales have one. These are located on the top of the head, allowing the animal to remain mostly submerged whilst breathing. Breathing involves expelling excess water from the blowhole, forming an upward spout, followed by inhaling air into the lungs. Spout shapes differ among species and can help with identification.
The body shape is fusiform and the modified forelimbs, or fins, are paddle-shaped. The end of the tail is composed of two flukes, which propel the animal by vertical movement, as opposed to the horizontal movement of a fish tail. Although whales do not possess fully developed hind limbs, some (such as sperm whales and baleen whales) possess discrete rudimentary appendages, which may even have feet and digits. Most species have a dorsal fin.
Toothed whales, such as the sperm whale, possess teeth with cementum cells overlying dentine cells. Unlike human teeth, which are composed mostly of enamel on the portion of the tooth outside of the gum, whale teeth have cementum outside the gum. Only in larger whales, where the cementum has been worn away on the tip of the tooth, does enamel show.
The whale ear has specific adaptations to the marine environment. In humans, the middle ear works as an impedance matcher between the outside air’s low impedance and the cochlear fluid’s high impedance. In aquatic mammals such as whales, however, there is no great difference between the outer and inner environments. Instead of sound passing through the outer ear to the middle ear, whales receive sound through the throat, from which it passes through a low-impedance fat-filled cavity to the inner ear.
Males are called 'bulls', females, 'cows' and newborns, 'calves'. Many whales exhibit surfacing behaviors such as breaching and tail slapping.
Unlike most animals, whales are conscious breathers. All mammals sleep, but whales cannot afford to become unconscious for long because they may drown. It is thought that only one hemisphere of the whale's brain sleeps at a time, so they rest but are never completely asleep.
Some species, such as the humpback whale, communicate using melodic sounds, known as whale song. These sounds can be extremely loud, depending on the species. Sperm whales have only been heard making clicks, because toothed whales (Odontoceti) use echolocation and can be heard for many miles. They can generate about 20,000 watts of sound at 163 decibels.
Male genitals retract into body during swimming, reducing drag and preventing injury.
The female delivers a single calf tail-first to minimize the risk of drowning. Whale cows nurse by actively squirting milk, so fatty that it has the consistency of toothpaste, into the mouths of their young. Nursing continues for more than a year in many species, and is associated with a strong bond between mother and calf. Reproductive maturity occurs typically at seven to ten years. This mode of reproduction produces few offspring, but increase survival probability.
Whales are known to teach, learn, cooperate, scheme, and even grieve.
Baleen whales such as humpbacks and blues feed only in arctic waters, eating mostly krill. They imbibe enormous amounts of seawater which they expel through their baleen plates. The water is then expelled and the krill is retained on the plates and then swallowed. Whales do not drink seawater but indirectly extract water from their food by metabolizing fat.
Some species of large whales are listed by various advocacy groups and governments as endangered due to whaling-reduced populations. They have been hunted commercially for whale oil, meat, baleen and ambergris (a perfume ingredient from the intestine of sperm whales) since the 1600s. More than 2 million whales were killed by whaling in the early 20th century. and by the middle of the century, many populations were severely depleted.
The International Whaling Commission introduced a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986. The moratorium is not absolute, however, and some whaling continues under the auspices of scientific research or aboriginal rights; current whaling nations are Norway, Iceland and Japan and the aboriginal communities of Siberia, Alaska and northern Canada.
Several species of small whales are caught as bycatch in fisheries for other species. In the Eastern Tropical Pacific tuna fishery, thousands of dolphins drowned in purse-seine nets, until preventive measures were introduced. Gear and deployment modifications, and eco-labelling (dolphin-safe or dolphin-friendly brands of tuna), have contributed to a reduction in dolphin mortality by tuna vessels. In many countries, small whales are still hunted for food, oil, meat or bait.
Environmentalists speculate that advanced naval sonar endangers some cetaceans, including whales. In 2003 British and Spanish scientists suggested in Nature that the effects of sonar trigger whale beachings and to signs that such whales have experienced decompression sickness. Responses in Nature the following year discounted the explanation.
Mass whale beachings occur in many species, mostly beaked whales that use echolocation for deep diving. The frequency and size of beachings around the world, recorded over the last 1,000 years in religious tracts and more recently in scientific surveys, have been used to estimate the population of various whale species by assuming that the proportion of the total whale population beaching in any one year is constant. Beached whales can give other clues about population conditions, especially health problems. For example, bleeding around ears, internal lesions, and nitrogen bubbles in organ tissue suggest that these whales suffer from decompression sickness.
Following public concern, the U.S. Defense department was ordered by the 9th Circuit Court to strictly limit use of its Low Frequency Active Sonar during peacetime. Attempts by the UK-based Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society to obtain a public inquiry into the possible dangers of the Royal Navy's equivalent (the "2087" sonar launched in December 2004) failed as of 2008. The European Parliament has requested that EU members refrain from using the powerful sonar system until an environmental impact study has been carried out.
Other human activities have been suggested by Marine Biologists to adversely impact whale populations, such as collisions with ships and propellers, poisoning by waste contaminants and the unregulated use of fishing gear that catches anything that swims into it.
Whales were little understood for most of human history as they spend up to 90% of the lives underwater, only surfacing only briefly to breathe. They also include the largest animals on the planet, so it is not surprising that many cultures, even those that have hunted them, hold them in awe and feature them in their mythologies.
In China, Yu-kiang, a whale with the hands and feet of a man was said to rule the ocean.
Paikea, the youngest and favourite son of the chief Uenuku from the island of Mangaia in the present day Cook Islands in New Zealand was said by the Kati Kuri people of Kaikoura to have come from the Pacific Islands on the back of a whale many centuries before. The novel and movie Whale Rider follow the trials of a girl named Paikia, who lives in such a culture.
The whale features in Inuit creation myths. When ‘Big Raven', a deity in human form, found a stranded whale, he was told by the Great Spirit where to find special mushrooms that would give him the strength to drag the whale back to the sea and thus return order to the world.
The Tlingit people of northern Canada said that the Orcas were created when the hunter Natsihlane carved eight fish from yellow cedar, sang his most powerful spirit song and commanded the fish to leap into the water.
In Icelandic legend a man threw a stone at a fin whale and hit the blowhole, causing the whale to burst. The man was told not to go to sea for twenty years but in the nineteenth year he went fishing and a whale came and killed him.
In East African legend King Sulemani asked God that He might permit him to feed all the beings on earth. A whale came and ate until there was no corn left and then told Sulemani that he was still hungry and that there were 70,000 more in his tribe. Sulemani then prayed to God for forgiveness and thanked the creature for teaching him a lesson in humility.
The King James Version of the Bible mentions whales four times: "And God created great whales" (Genesis 1:21); "Am I a sea, or a whale, that thou settest a watch over me? (Job 7:12); "Thou art like a young lion of the nations, and thou art as a whale in the seas (Ezekiel 32:2); and "For as Jonas [sic] was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 12:40). The story of Jonah being swallowed by a whale also is told in the Qur'an.
Some cultures associate divinity with whales, such as among Ghanaians and Vietnamese, who occasionally hold funerals for beached whales, a throwback to Vietnam's ancient sea-based Austro-asiatic culture.
All cetaceans, including whales, dolphins and porpoises, are descendants of land-living mammals of the Artiodactyl order (even-toed ungulates). Both descended from a common ancestor, the Indohyus (an extinct semi-aquatic deer-like ungulate) from which they split around 54 million years ago. Whales entered the water roughly 50 million years ago.
This article is a travel topic.
Whale watching is a hobby that is enjoyed by millions of people around the world every year.
WHALE, the English name applied to all the larger and some of the smaller representatives of the order Cetacea. Although by their mode of life far removed from close observation, whales are in many respects the most interesting and wonderful of all creatures; and there is much in their structure and habits worthy of study. One of the first lessons a study of these animals affords is that, in the endeavour to discover what a creature really is, from what others it is descended, and to which it is related, the outward appearance affords little clue, and we must go deep below the surface to find the essential characteristics of its nature. There was once, and may be still, an idea that a whale is a fish. To realize the fallacy of this notion we have only to consider what a fish really is, what under all the diversities of form, size and cclour there is common to all fishes, and we see that in everything which characterizes a true fish and separates if from other classes, as reptiles, birds and mammals, the whale resembles the last and differs from the fish. It is as essentially a mammal as a cow or a horse, and simply resembles a fish externally because it is adapted to inhabit the same element; but it is no more on that account a fish than is a bat (because adapted to pass a great part of its existence on the wing) nearly related to a bird. In every part of the structure of a whale we see the result of two principles acting and reacting upon each other - on the one hand, adherence to type, or rather to fundamental inherited structural conditions, and, on the other, adaptation to the peculiar circumstances under which it lives, and to which it has become gradually fitted. The external fish-like form is perfectly suited for FIG. 2. - The Black Whale or Southern Right Whale (B. australis).1 shores of the Basque provinces of France and Spain in the middle ages. From the 10th to the 16th centuries Bayonne, Biarritz, St Jean de Luz and San Sebastian, as well as numerous other towns on the north coast of Spain, were the centres of an active whale "fishery," which supplied Europe with oil and whalebone. In later times the whales were pursued as far as the coast of Newfoundland. They were, however, already getting scarce when the voyages undertaken towards the close of the 16th century for the discovery of the north-eastern route to China and India opened the seas round_ Spitzbergen; then for the first time the existence of the Greenland whale became known, and henceforth the energies of the European whale-fishers became concentrated upon that animal. Among instances of the occurrence of this whale in Europe in modern times FIG. i. - The Greenland or Arctic Right Whale (Balaena mysticetus). material, the "blubber," a dense kind of fat placed immediately beneath the skin. The fore-limbs, though functionally reduced to mere paddles, with no power of motion except at the shoulderjoint, have beneath their smooth and continuous external covering all the bones, joints and even most of the muscles, nerves and arteries of the human arm and hand; and rudiments even of hind-legs are found buried deep in the interior of the animal, serving no useful purpose, but pointing a lesson to those able to read it.
In the present article attention is directed only to what may be regarded as the typical whales. Of these the Greenland or Arctic right whale (Balaena mysticetus) attains, when full grown, a length of from 45 to 50 ft. In this species (fig. i) all the peculiarities which distinguish the head and mouth of the whales from those of other mammals have attained their greatest development. The head is of enormous size, exceeding one-third the whole length of the creature. The cavity of the mouth is actually larger than that of the body, thorax and abdomen together. The upper jaw is very narrow, but greatly arched from before backwards, to increase the height of the cavity and allow for the great length of the whalebone-blades; the enormous lateral halves of the lower jaw are widely separated posteriorly, and have a further outward sweep before they meet at the symphysis in front, giving the floor of the mouth the shape of an immense spoon. The whalebone-blades attain the number of 380 or more on each side, and those in the middle of the series have a length of 10 or. sometimes 12 ft. They are black in colour, fine and highly elastic in texture, and fray out at the inner edge and ends into long, delicate, soft, almost silky, but tough hairs. The remarkable development of the mouth and of the structures in connexion with it, which distinguishes the right whale from all its allies, is entirely in relation to the nature of its food. By this apparatus the creature is enabled to avail itself of the minute but highly nutritious crustaceans and pteropods which swarm in immense shoals in the seas it frequents. The large mouth enables it to take in at one time a sufficient quantity of water filled with these small organisms, and the length and delicate structure of the whalebone provide an efficient strainer or hair-sieve by which the water can be drained off. If the whalebone were rigid, and only as long as is the aperture between the upper and lower jaws when the mouth is shut, a space would be left beneath it when the jaws were separated, through which the water and the minute particles of food would escape. But instead of this the long, slender, brush-like, elastic ends of the whalebone blades fold back when the mouth is closed, the front ones passing below the hinder ones in a channel lying between the tongue and the lower jaw. When the mouth is opened, their elasticity causes them to straighten out like a bow unbent, so that at whatever distance the jaws are separated the strainer swimming through the water; the tail, however, is not placed vertically as in fishes, but horizontally, a position which accords better with the constant necessity for rising to the surface for the purpose of breathing. The hairy covering characteristic of all mammals, which if present might interfere with rapidity of movement through the water, is reduced to the merest rudiments - a few short bristles about the chin or upper lip - which are often only present in young animals. The function of keeping the body warm is performed by a thick layer of' non-conducting remains in perfect action, filling the whole of the interval. The mechanical perfection of the arrangement is completed by the great development of the lower lip, which rises stiffly above the jaw-bone and prevents the long, slender, flexible ends of the whalebone from being carried outwards by the rush of water from the mouth, when its cavity is being diminished by the closure of the jaws and raising of the tongue.
If, as appears highly probable, the "bowhead" of the Okhotsk Sea and Bering Strait belongs to this species, its range is circumpolar. Though found in the seas on both sides of Greenland, and passing freely from one to the other, it is never seen so far south as Cape Farewell; but on the Labrador coast, where a cold stream sets down from the north, its range is somewhat farther. In the Bering Sea, according to Scammon, "it is seldom seen south of the fifty-fifth parallel, which is about the farthest southern extent of the winter ice, while in the Sea of Okhotsk its southern limit is about the latitude of 54°." "Everything tends to prove," Scammon says, "that Balaena mysticetus is truly an ` ice whale,' for among the scattered floes, or about the borders of the ice-fields or barriers, is its home and feeding-ground. It is true that these animals are pursued in the open water during the summer months, but in no instance have we learned of their being captured south of where winter ice-fields are occasionally met with." The occurrence of this species, therefore, on the British or any European coast is unlikely, as when alive and in health the southern limit of its range in the North Sea is from the east coast of Greenland at 64° N. lat. along the north of Iceland towards Spitzbergen, and a glance at a physical chart will show that there are no currents setting southwards which could bear a disabled animal or a floating carcase to the British shores. To this improbability may be added the fact that no authentic instance has been recorded of the capture or stranding of this species upon any European coast. Still, as two other Arctic cetaceans, the narwhal and the beluga, have in a few instances found their way to British shores, it would be rash to deny the possibility of the Greenland right whale doing the same.
The black whale or southern right whale (B. australis) resembles the preceding in the absence of a dorsal fin and of longitudinal furrows in the skin of the throat and chest, but differs in that it possesses a smaller head in proportion to its, body, shorter whalebone, a different-shaped contour of the upper margin of the lower lip, and a greater number of vertebrae. This type inhabits the temperate seas of both southern and northern hemispheres and is divided into several species according to their geographical distribution: B. biscayensis of the North Atlantic, B. japonica of the North Pacific, B. australis of the South Atlantic, and B. antipodarum and B. novae-zelandiae of the South Pacific. But the differential characters by which they are separated are slight, and the number of specimens available for comparison is not sufficient to afford the necessary data to determine whether these characters can be regarded as specific or not.
The Biscay right whale was formerly abundant in the North Atlantic, but is now verging on extinction. This was the whale the pursuit of which gave occupation to a numerous population on the may be mentioned three, namely, in the harbour of San Sebastian in January 1854, in the Gulf of Taranto, in the Mediterranean, in February 1877, and on the Spanish coast between Guetaria and Zarauz (Guipuzcoa) in February 1878. The skeletons of these three whales are preserved in the museums of Copenhagen, Naples and San Sebastian respectively. On the coast of the United States several specimens have been taken; and a cargo of whalebone belonging to this species was received at New Bedford in 1906. During the latter year six examples were killed by whalers from Buneveneader, in the island of Harris (see R. C. Haldane, Ann. Scot. Nat. Hist., 1907, p. 13). In the North Pacific a similar if not identical whale is regularly hunted by the Japanese, who tow the carcases ashore for the purpose of flensing and extracting the whalebone. In the tropical seas, however, right whales are never or rarely seen; but the southern temperate ocean, especially in the neighbourhood of the Cape of Good Hope, Kerguelen's Island, Australia and New Zealand, is inhabited by "black whales," once abundant, but now nearly exterminated through the wanton destruction of the females as they visit the bays and inlets round the coast, their constant habit in the breeding time. The range of these whales southward has not been accurately determined; but no species corresponding with the Arctic right whale has been met with in the Antarctic seas.
The Hebrew word tan (plural, tannin) is so rendered in Job 7:12 (A.V.; but R.V., "sea-monster"). It is rendered by "dragons" in Deut 32:33; Ps 9113; Jer 51:34; Ps 7413 (marg., "whales;" and marg. of R.V., "sea-monsters"); Isa 27:1; and "serpent" in Ex 7:9 (R.V. marg., "any large reptile," and so in ver. 10, 12). The words of Job (Job 7:12), uttered in bitter irony, where he asks, "Am I a sea or a whale?" simply mean, "Have I a wild, untamable nature, like the waves of the sea, which must be confined and held within bounds, that they cannot pass?" "The serpent of the sea, which was but the wild, stormy sea itself, wound itself around the land, and threatened to swallow it up...Job inquires if he must be watched and plagued like this monster, lest he throw the world into disorder" (Davidson's Job).
The whale tribe are included under the general Hebrew name tannin (Gen 1:21; Lam 4:3). "Even the sea-monsters [tanninim] draw out the breast." The whale brings forth its young alive, and suckles them.
It is to be noticed of the story of Jonah's being "three days and three nights in the whale's belly," as recorded in Mt 12:40, that here the Gr. ketos means properly any kind of sea-monster of the shark or the whale tribe, and that in the book of Jonah (Jonah 1:17) it is only said that "a great fish" was prepared to swallow Jonah. This fish may have been, therefore, some great shark. The white shark is known to frequent the Mediterranean Sea, and is sometimes found 30 feet in length.
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A cetaceous mammal. Several species of cetacea are found in the Mediterranean as well as in the Red Sea. In the Authorized Version of the Bible the Hebrew "tannin" is often rendered "whale"; while the Revised Version has "sea-monster" (Gen 1:21; Job vii. 12), "dragon" (Ezek 32:12), and "jackal" (Lam 4:3).
The name "leviathan," which usually designates the fabulously great fish preserved for the future world, seems in certain passages of the Talmud to refer to some kind of whale; so, for instance, in Ḥul. 67b, where leviathan is said to be a clean fish, having fins and scales, and in B. B. 73b, where a fabulous description of its enormous size is given. In Shab. 7b the (image) (meaning perhaps the porcupine) is said to be the vexer of the leviathan. See also Leviathan and Behemoth.
Fossil range: Early Eocene - Recent
|humpback whale breaching|
|Around 88 species; see list of cetaceans or below.|
[[File:|thumb|200px|a Humpback Whale]]
Whales are very large marine mammals, that live in the oceans. Whales are not fish; like other mammals, they breathe oxygen from the air, and have a small amount of hair, and warm blood. There are two basic kinds of whale, baleen whales and toothed whales, and about 100 species.
People disagree about the meaning of the word whale. Some think it means all Cetaceans including dolphins and porpoises. These people say that dolphins and porpoises are also whales, because they are also Cetaceans. Other people separate out the dolphins and porpoises because common English-speaking people have never called them or thought of them as whales unless they are big and more whale-shaped. Actually, there is no clear line between whales and dolphins.
Baleen whales eat big clouds of very small things floating in the water. Their mouths are very big. They open their mouths very wide and hold a big mouthful of sea water. Their throats stretch very wide to make the space inside their mouth even bigger. Then they close their mouth and squeeze out the seawater. The food does not escape because, instead of teeth, these whales have filters called baleen. This is very different from the way that toothed whales eat.
Toothed whales eat fish or meat and are like big dolphins. They have sharp teeth and usually have a big forehead. Inside the big forehead is a chamber to make and direct sounds. They make all kinds of sounds, including sounds so loud they can shock fish. Some of the sounds are so loud they can use echos to locate things that they can not see. Some toothed whales, for example the sperm whale, are almost never called dolphins. Some of them are always called dolphins. Others are like dolphins in some ways and like whales in others.
Males are called bulls. Females are called cows. The young are called calves.
Because of their environment (and unlike many animals), whales are conscious breathers: they decide when to breathe.
All mammals sleep, including whales, but they cannot stay in anstate for too long, because they need to be conscious to breathe. It is thought that only one hemisphere (half) of their brains sleeps at a time, so that whales are never completely asleep, but still get the rest they need.[needs proof] Whales are thought to sleep around eight hours a day.
Whales have been killed for oil by whalers. However, many countries havelaws saying not to kill whales anymore. Some countries, including Iceland and Japan do not have these laws. In other countries, such as the USA only Eskimos and some American Indians may legally kill whales.
Many people enjoy watching whales. Whales flip and flop and smash their tails on the surface of the water.
Breaching is what happens when a whale jumps into the air and then purposefully flops down on the water with a great splash. Sometimes it twirls in the air when it does this. Scientists are not sure whether breaching is done to play, to clean the whale's skin of things that are stuck to it, or to tell other whales something.
Whales also like spyhopping. This is when a whale sits straight up in the water with its head straight up and out of the water. It will sometimes turn around in circles as it spyhops. Some scientists think this might be because whales are trying to see what is happening above water.
Lobtailing is done when a whale faces downward in the water. It then slaps the water with a thunderous sound. Scientists think this might be done to warn other whales of danger, but are not yet sure.
Logging is another whale movement that happens when a whale swims slowly at the surface of the ocean with very little movement. When a whale does this, it looks like a log in the water. Some scientists think this is a kind of rest or sleep for whales.
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