Whales are the largest animals to ever exist on the planet, even bigger than the scariest dinosaurs. That makes them twice as terrifying, doesn’t it? Imagine a Jurassic Park full of whales! However, despite what their size would have you believe, whales are actually not as frightening. Unlike sharks, the deadliest predators of the oceans, whales are not known for their sharp hunting skills. Evolution has split whales into two parts, the adorable ones that feed on plankton, and the toothed whales that prey on the smaller fish, or marine mammals. I guess you should probably be scared of those ones. Here are some interesting facts about whales that everyone should know!
10. Whales Can Sing!
Whales communicate using vocalized sounds, which vary according to the size of the species. The Humpback whale is known to communicate using melodic sounds which are popularly known as whale songs. It is usually the males who are known to sing, probably to woo their girlfriends. Beluga whales make adorable chirping sounds like little birds. Whales are known to grieve and their songs haunt the oceans when they are mourning the loss of their partners. Scientists have also discovered that whales kept in captivity have tried to communicate by mimicking human speech. Unfortunately, as whales have a completely different vocal mechanism it is very difficult for them to actually imitate human speech. Maybe one day they won’t need to speak to us and we’ll understand on our own that they are not meant for captivity?
9. Narwhals Are Sea Unicorns!
Europeans used to believe that the tusk of the Narwhal whale was the horn of the mythical unicorn. The tusk of a Narwhal male grows up to two meters in length and they were hugely harvested in medieval Europe. They were believed to have magical curing powers like neutralizing poison and curing melancholia. In reality it is a tooth that grows through the whale’s lip and is an innervated sensory organ. Traders used to sell the horns for amounts equal to their weight in gold! The 16th century was a little towards the bonkers side, don’t you think?
8. Some Whales Can Live up to 200 Years!
The Bowhead Whale is the longest living mammal on the planet, often known to live to more than 200 years. In May 2007, a whale that was caught was found with the head of an explosive harpoon embedded deep under its neck blubber. This harpoon dated to around 1890. Imagine having a knife stuck in you for so long! Poor thing. Other Bowhead whales found on expeditions have been estimated to be between 135 and 172 years old.
7. Testicles That Weigh a Ton
The male Right whale found in the Southern hemisphere boasts of the largest genitalia on the planet. The Blue whale may be the largest in size but it has nothing when it comes to the size of the Right whale’s bulk. The testicles of the Right whale are ten times larger than that of the Blue whale. They have a penis that can grow up to twelve feet long. Their testicles weigh a ton, making them nearly 1% of the whale’s total weight. It is no surprise that the Southern Right whale is highly promiscuous. They definitely have a sperm competition which decides which ones gets the most mates.
6. Whales Are Afraid to Sleep
Unlike most mammals, whales are conscious of their breathing and therefore have to carefully regulate it. So, if a whale becomes unconscious for too long, it may drown to its death. Whales under observation have been recorded sleeping with one side of their brain at a time so that they can swim and breathe consciously while they rest themselves. According to a study, sperm whales sleep in vertical postures just under the surface, usually during the day. They ignore any activity that happens around them, like a boss.
5. Their Dead Bodies Are Party Spots
When a whale dies its body falls to the ocean floor which then leads to other animals creating an ecosystem around it. If the body of the whale is at the depth of over 2000 meters, they create complex localized ecosystems that support the deep sea creatures for over decades. Creatures such as hagfish or sleeper sharks feed on the decomposing tissues and then there are animals which colonize their bones. However, if a whale dies in shallower waters, its body is quickly devoured by scavengers.
4. Whales Are Extremely Intelligent
Whales have brain cells almost the same as humans, which we use for social conduct or producing emotions or judgments. Scientists have observed whales communicating, grieving, scheming and even learning, quite like us. The Sperm whale has the largest recorded brain of any animal, which can weigh up to 9 kilograms. Sperm whales were largely hunted for a yellowish substance in their brain called spermaceti. If the brain to body mass ratio in an indicator of intelligence, then whales are second only to humans!
3. The Largest Animals to Ever Exist!
The fact that Blue whales are the largest animals in the evolution of the planet needs to be reiterated. The largest recorded Blue whale was found in the Antarctic Ocean and was 30.5 meters long. That is about as long as a Boeing 737 plane! It was estimated to weigh about 144 tons. Its tongue alone is equal to the weight of a full grown elephant. Moreover, a newborn calf is about 7.5 meters long and grows at 4 kilograms an hour while consuming 225 liters of milk. Next time you put on a little weight, think about this and relax a little bit.
2. Hippos are the Closest Relatives of Whales
This one was a bit obvious considering both hippopotamuses and whales are giants that have terrified mankind for eternity. Whales were originally land mammals who first took to the sea around 49 million years ago. Over time they adapted to the marine environment and became fully aquatic. However, both whales and hippopotamuses share a same aquatic ancestor. While whales adapted by evolving their forelimbs into flippers, the hippos evolved into an even toed river animal. One would think that dolphins and porpoises are closer, but hippos are the closest living relatives of whales.
1. Whale Population has Dropped by 50%
Whales are some of the most endangered animals that have constantly been under the attack of humans. According to one of World Wide Fund’s reports the population of whales declined by 49% between 1970 and 2012. Decades of whaling and hunting the poor animals for their blubber which was used to make soaps and what not have dwindled their populations near to extinction. The Western Pacific Grey Whale is down to its last 150 individuals. The last count Bryde’s Whales showed about 43 remaining. The increasing pollution and climate change might just wipe out the entire species.