Whales are an incredible collection of creatures that have fascinated and delighted researchers and observers alike for thousands of years. They are the largest marine mammals on the planets.
Whales are among the most desired animals in the world, and they are linked to ancient civilizations from the past. Whales have played key roles in the creation of entire nations.
Humans have always been drawn to the largest of these magnificent creatures, despite the fact that whales range in size. To find out more about the planet’s largest whales, count down from the top.
Minke Whale (up to 35 feet or 10.5 meters)
Although it is the smallest of the whales listed, it is still a whale. These whales range in color from dark grey to black, with a purple hue in some cases, and may grow to be around 35 feet or 10.5 meters long. They can weigh up to 20,000 pounds. They belong to the family of baleen whales that are carnivorous.
They are divided into two major groups and survive for around 40 to 50 years on average. Northern and Antarctic minke whales exist, respectively. Fishing, climate change, ship collisions, and other threats are all posing a danger to them in their various habitats.
Bryde’s Whale (46 feet / 14 meters)
John Bryde, a Norwegian who aided in the establishment of South Africa’s first whaling station, is commemorated by the Bryde’s whale. Off the coasts of Southern Africa, as well as Mexico, the Caribbean, Hawaii, and California, Bryde’s whales may frequently be seen.
The grey-colored Bryde’s Whale lives in tropical and subtropical waters, reaching lengths of up to 50 feet and weights of up to 25 tons. While they are seen in bigger groups while feeding, Bryde’s whales prefer to remain in pairs.
Rorqual whales are a kind of baleen whale that includes the species. These whales have a large gulping mouth and throat pouch that allows them to sift their prey from huge gulps of seawater. The deep folds of skin that run from the rororsqual whales’ mouths to their stomachs can be used to identify them.
Sardines, anchovies, and herrings are eaten by Bryde’s whales, as are crustaceans such as krill and shrimps.
Like all baleen whales, Bryde’s whales have two blowholes that they use to breathe.
Sei Whale (52 feet / 16 meters)
The underside of the sei whale is light grey and white dotted with small patches of dark grey. After the blue whale and the fin whale, it is the third-longest baleen species. Adults consume an average of 2,000 lb. (900 kg) of food every day, feeding on tiny crustaceans and other planktonic creatures.
Its cousin, Bryde’s whale, is frequently mistaken with the sei whale. The 300–380 pairs of ashy-black baleen plates on a sei whale are the most reliable way to identify it.
Sei whales were commercially hunted for meat and oil, and today’s worldwide population of 80,000 is thought to be only a third of the pre-whaling population. The species is still in danger.
The Sei whale, which can swim at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour, has been dubbed the “open ocean cheetah.” Over short distances, it may reach 31 mph (50 km/h).
Due to its battling habits, the gray whale is sometimes referred to as a “devil fish.” They might weigh up to 40 tons apiece. They were previously in the North Atlantic and lived near the waters of California, where they were eventually eliminated.
They’re distinguished by their parasite-induced white scars that run across their bodies. Otherwise, they are slate-gray in hue and have distinctively shaped dorsal surfaces. They have a heart-shaped blow because of the two blowholes on top of their head. The oldest known whale was estimated to be 80 years old, and these whales live between 55 and 70 years.
These big whales are also known to eat crustaceans and other sea creatures that live in the sand in shallow, coastal water, in addition to plankton and tiny fish in the open ocean.
The gray whale lowers itself to the ocean floor, rolls on its side, and sucks up water and sediment in order to capture this prey. The prey is then swallowed after the water is expelled via its cream-colored baleen plates. Feeding whales have sand in their mouths after feeding on the sea bed, leaving a trail of sediment and hollows.
Many white tumors produced by parasites that attached themselves to the whale’s body mar the grey whale’s slate-grey skin. A dorsal fin is not present in this species.
Every two years, a single calf is born to a female. At birth, the calf weighs about 1 ton and is born tail first. Gray whales have been known to live for up to 70 years.
Each year, from their feeding grounds off the coast of Alaska to the warmer waters of Baja California, gray whales migrate. This is the longest migration of any mammal, covering a distance of 12,000 mi (19,000 km).
Humpback Whale (52 feet / 16 meters)
Breaching, spy-hopping, tail-slapping, and fin-slapping at the surface of the water are all behaviors exhibited by the humpback whale, which is one of the most well-known whale species.
Megaptera means “big wings” in the genus name of the humpback. The species’ long pectoral (side) fins, which may grow up to 6 meters in length, are the source of the name.
Long, complex, and exceedingly loud songs are characteristic of male humpbacks. Each song may be repeated multiple times, sometimes for up to 24 hours, and may last up to 20 minutes.
Whales do not need to exhale in order to make noises because they do not have vocal chords. The larynx-like structure in the throat is used by the humpback to produce its songs, but exactly how it does so is still unknown.
The humpback, a baleen whale, feeds by filtering tiny creatures like krill and fish from the water with its baleen. Using “bubble nets,” it’s known to round up its victims. By blowing bubbles among shoals of fish, the whale forces prey animals into huge groups that may be quickly devoured, according to this hunting strategy.
The global population of humpback whales was reduced by around 5,000 animals to less than 5,000 animals as a result of whaling. The population of the species has grown to an estimated 80,000 individuals since it was protected in 1966.
Although humpback whales continue to face various hazards, such as ship collisions, entanglement in fishing nets, and noise pollution that hinders their communication, they have been designated as “Least Concern.”
Right Whale 60 feet (18.3 meters)
One of the world’s most endangered whales is the right whale. There are roughly 400 individuals remaining in the world’s oceans, according to NOAA.
They’re easily identified by the presence of whale lice-infested rough patches on their heads. These whales are huge, weighing roughly 100 short tons and reaching a maximum weight of 298,000 pounds. They avoid open waters and stay close to peninsulas where there is more food. Krill are the main source of food, although copepods are also eaten.
The southern right whale, like other right whales, has large, relatively short pectoral (side) flippers and lacks a dorsal fin. The mouths of all right whales begin above the eye, and are curved.
Whalers called them Right Whales because they lingered after death, had a lot of blubber, and moved slowly. As a result, they were the “appropriate” whale to hunt.
Southern right whales, like other whale species, feed in Antarctic seas throughout the summer and migrate south to breed during the winter. The southern right whale, a baleen whale, feeds by collecting plankton from the water through comb-like baleen plates in its mouth.
Breaching, spy-hopping, and tail-sailing are examples of southern right whale surface behaviors. They are popular among whale-watching tourists because of their docile nature and inherent inquisitiveness.
During the early twentieth century, the species was almost hunted to extinction. The population of Southern right whales is now estimated to be around 10,000 individuals, and the species is steadily recovering.
Bowhead Whale (59 feet / 18 meters)
Apart from a white patch on the chin, the bowhead whale has a robust, rounded physique and is uniformly dark gray / black in hue. It breaks through Arctic ice using its enormous head, which accounts for a third of the body’s length.
A dorsal fin is missing from the bowhead whale, which may be an adaptation to life and swimming just under the ice.
The bowhead, with its enormous mouth and 9.8-foot-long baleen plates, is the biggest of all whales.
The Arctic cold is protected from bowhead whales because their blubber is unusually thick (up to 20 in or 50 cm). Whales can overheat after vigorous exercise and need to cool off by swallowing chilled sea water because of the efficiency of this blubber as an insulator. Unfortunately, whalers relied on their blubber as a source of food.
Bowhead whales, like other right whales, are naturally buoyant and slow swimmers. Their meat, bones, oil, and baleen were all in high demand because of their perfection as whales for commercial hunting. In the early 1900s, the species’ global population had dwindled to around 3,000 individuals.
Bowhead whales are now protected and their population has grown. Native North Americans continue to hunt a limited number of them each year for meat and blubber.
Bowhead whales are considered to be the earth’s longest-lived animal species. A bowhead harpoon head was discovered in the body of a bowhead caught off the coast of Alaska in 2007. The whale was more than 125 years old when it died, since the harpoon was made between 1879 and 1885.
Sperm Whale (67 feet / 20.5 meters)
The sperm whale, one of the few whale species that can thrive in a variety of climates and is thus distributed across the globe, is the biggest of the toothed whales. Male sperm whales are solitary creatures throughout mating, but females travel in groups and live together.
Males of sperm whales may reach a weight of 56 tons and average 67 feet (20.5 meters) in length. Whaling, on the other hand, should be noted for potentially reducing the overall size of these whales by focusing on the biggest.
To aid the sharp squid beaks go through their intestines without causing injury, sperm whales produce ambergris, a waxy substance. A classic component of perfume is this fragrant material.
Echolocation is used by sperm whales to locate their meals, just like other toothed whales. On top of their skulls, sperm whales have complicated spermaceti organs. The sperm whale uses the loud clacking noises in echolocation by producing a waxy fluid from these organs.
Cosmetics, soap, candles, lamp oil, and lubricating oil were all made using spermaceti liquid and blubber from sperm whales. Whale hunters slaughtered more than a million sperm whales for these goods.
The global population of the species is presently thought to be over 300,000 individuals. It is on the vulnerable list.
The sperm whale’s brain is the largest (average 17 lb / 7.8 kg), its digestive system is the longest (about 980 ft / 300 m), and it produces the loudest noise of any animal!
Fin Whale 90 feet (27.5 meters)
The world’s oceans’ second biggest whale is the fin whale. Only slightly smaller than the blue whale, it may reach 90 feet in length. It may live up to 90 years and may be found all over the globe. In addition, the whale may weigh up to 80 tons. Ocean noise, vessel collisions, overfishing, and other dangers threaten them.
Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, they were hunted. During this time, an estimated 725,000 fin whales were slaughtered in the Southern Hemisphere. Because whaling for commercial purposes was banned in the 1970s and 1980s, they are no longer endangered by it.
The long dorsal fin, which gives the species its name, is used to identify it. The lower jaw is asymmetrical in coloration, which is unusual. White on the right, black on the left. Herding prey fish may have chosen the lighter side because of its color.
Fin whales, like many other whale species, spend the summer eating in sub-polar seas before heading south for the winter. They reach physical maturity around the age of 25 and may live up to 90 years.
Throughout the twentieth century, fin whales were commercially hunted, and just 38,000 individuals remained by 1997. Between 1905 and 1976, hundreds of thousands of these whales were killed in the southern hemisphere.
Blue Whale (98 feet / 30 meters)
The blue whale is the world’s biggest known animal, as well as being the world’s biggest whale species. It is estimated that blue whales may weigh up to 173 tons and reach a length of 98 feet (30 meters). Blue whales have a lighter underside and are a dark blue color. Like the name implies, they are blue whales.
The number of blue whales in the North Atlantic, North Pacific, and portions of the Southern Hemisphere is now much lower than it was before commercial whaling.
Rorqual whales are a group of baleen whales that includes the blue whale. The wrinkles of folded skin that run from a rorqual whale’s mouth to its stomach may be used to identify it. When a whale is feeding, the folds around its mouth expand. In one mouthful, a blue whale can swallow up to 200 tons of water.
The greatest dive lasted for 15 minutes and was 1,033 feet (315 meters) deep.
In the early 1900s, blue whales were almost hunted to extinction. The species’ population gradually grew after 1966, when all whale hunting was prohibited. Blue whales are currently swimming in the world’s oceans between 10,000 and 25,000. Blue whales, like many other whales, are frequently killed in ship collisions.