Unlike fish, whales breath air through blowholes; filling their lungs with air to dive for limited intervals. They are the only mammals other than manatee that live their whole lives in the ocean.
Most interesting is that whales actually evolved from land mammals between 30-50 million years ago. It’s believed that whales may have evolved from a crocodilian-like ancestor and a raccoon-sized mammal that had an inner ear structure resembling a whales and extremely different from anything else found in land mammals. Their pectoral fins also contain five-digits like our hands, the bones adapted for swimming and steering.
Not convinced? What other similarities do whales have to us, you might ask? Well, firstly females give live birth and feed their young from mammary glands, just like humans. Whales are warm-blooded vertebrate that’s high metabolism regulates its internal temperature – just like humans.
Their social behavior, as I have mentioned in the previous post: How You Can Get Involved Sitting on Your Computer: The Whale Song Project, is focused on communication. They have strong social ties, most species traveling in pods, but those that are lone travelers communicate through low-frequency vibrations to one another. Their gestation ranges from 9-18 months, females birthing a single calf at a time that stay in their mothers’ protection for about a year.
Whales migrate the whole planet from the Antarctic to the Arctic, across the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans in order to find food. With such large biomass, they need to consume massive amounts of food to maintain energy and body temperature.
With species like the Killer whale and Shortfin Pilot, able to swim up to 30mph (48km/h), their streamlined shape allows them to flow seamlessly through the ocean. So, much of their activity and life is unobserved. Humans have been fascinated by whale watching for centuries, and below are the four most commonly sighted behaviors.
Once I was lucky enough to spot two pilot whales, at 6am, half awake, it was startling to hear and feel the spray of two pilot whales surfacing for air, while focusing on watching a 600lb blue marlin get reeled in. A true Nat Geo moment, I wish I had of captured on film. I love that about the ocean, when you’re half asleep or in the middle of doing something else, all craziness breaks loose and you witness miracles.