30 Interesting Facts About Whales

Did you know that despite their massive size, whales have small teeth for hunting?

If you’re a fan of these aquatic animals, you’ll enjoy these fascinating facts about whales, covering everything from their sizes to breeding habits.

Whales are a type of marine mammal and the term typically excludes dolphins and porpoises.

Toothed whales like the beluga, orca (also known as the “killer whale”), and sperm whale have small teeth primarily used for hunting. Filter feeders like the blue, humpback, and minke whale have baleen to filter plankton.

Whales are part of the cetacea family, which includes animals with fins, flukes, and blowholes.

The largest whale in the world is the blue whale, measuring 30 meters and weighing over 180 tonnes. The smallest is the pygmy sperm whale at 3.5 meters.

Whales have been hunted for their meat, bones, and for medicinal purposes, leading to many species becoming endangered.

The hippopotamus is the closest living relative of the whale.

Whales are descended from Artiodactyl species of dinosaurs that lived on land.

Whales are warm-blooded creatures and their blubber stores energy and insulates their body, allowing them to survive harsh winters.

Baleen whales have two blowholes, while toothed whales only have one.

Male whales are called bulls, females are called cows, and newborns are called calves. Most cows give birth to a single calf born tail first to avoid drowning.

Calves reach maturity between 7-10 years old.

Whales live in families called pods.

Only one hemisphere of a whale’s brain is asleep at a time.

Scientists believe whales are capable of teaching, learning, cooperating with others, scheming, and grieving, as studies found their cells similar to human cells involved in social interactions.

Breaching or cresting the surface of the ocean can indicate courting, danger, dominance, or play.

Killer whales spyhop in the water using their buoyancy to satisfy their curiosity.

Whales slap their flukes against the water to scare smaller fish while foraging for food.

Whales communicate through a series of songs, which Dory famously tried to speak in the movie Finding Nemo.

Whale watching is a popular tourist activity where groups are taken on boats to observe whales in their natural habitat.

Whales feature heavily in religion and mythology, such as the story of Jonah being swallowed by a whale.

Some of the most famous fictional whales are Moby Dick and Monstro.

There are many famous movies about whales, including Big Miracle, the Free Willy franchise, Moby Dick, Pinocchio, and Whale Rider.

Injured whales are sometimes taken into captivity to recover, but some become too accustomed to their new lifestyle and cannot rejoin their pod, resulting in their death.

Whales in captivity often perform in shows, such as at Sea World in Orlando, Florida, featuring killer whales that are rewarded for their efforts.

Some of the most famous killer whales include:

The text lists several notable killer whales and their stories. Keiko, the famous star of the “Free Willy” movies, was released into the wild but tragically died after beaching himself. Springer is the only whale known to have successfully joined her pod after human interaction. Shamu was the first killer whale to survive more than 13 months in captivity and performances but was retired after grabbing and refusing to release one of her handlers. Lolita spent 40 years at the Miami Seaquarium and was a popular attraction, but many hoped for her release from captivity. Tilikum, a performing killer whale at Sea World, has been involved in three human incidents resulting in the deaths of two female trainers and a hypothermic intruder. Tommy Lee of the rock group Mötley Crüe has advocated for Tilikum’s release after allegations were made about the whale’s sperm donation and human contact.


1. What is the biggest whale species?

The biggest whale species is the blue whale, which can grow up to 100 feet long and weigh over 200 tons. It is also the largest animal on Earth.

2. How long can a whale hold its breath?

Whales can hold their breath for an impressive amount of time. The sperm whale can hold its breath for up to 90 minutes, while the beluga whale can hold its breath for up to 20 minutes.

3. How do whales communicate with each other?

Whales communicate with each other through a variety of sounds, including clicks, whistles, and songs. These sounds can travel for long distances underwater and help whales locate each other and find food.

4. What is the purpose of a whale’s blowhole?

A whale’s blowhole is used for breathing. When a whale comes to the surface, it exhales air through its blowhole, creating a spout of water and mist. The blowhole also allows the whale to take in air quickly before diving back down into the water.

5. Do all whales have teeth?

No, not all whales have teeth. Baleen whales, such as the humpback whale, have baleen plates instead of teeth. Baleen plates are used to filter small organisms, such as krill, from the water.

6. How fast can a whale swim?

Whales can swim at different speeds depending on the species. The killer whale can swim up to 34 miles per hour, while the humpback whale can swim up to 15 miles per hour.

7. What is a group of whales called?

A group of whales is called a pod. Some species, such as the humpback whale, can form large pods of up to 20 individuals.

8. Are whales endangered?

Many whale species are currently endangered due to hunting, pollution, and habitat loss. It is important to protect these magnificent creatures and their habitats to ensure their survival for future generations.

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