Difference between revisions of "Whale"

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== See Also ==
== See Also ==
*[[Rosie O'Donnell]]
== References ==
== References ==

Revision as of 01:31, December 19, 2007

800px-Baleen Whale Physical Characteristics svg.png

Whales are marine mammals of the order the Cetacea.

Living whales are separated into the toothed whales (which includes dolphins, porpoises, narwhals, beaked whales and sperm whales) and the whalebone whales; those (mostly very large) cetaceans which have teeth replaced by baleen (whalebone) to filter small prey from the water, which are what people generally think of when the word whale is used. The whalebone whales include the rorquals - the blue whale, fin whale, sei whale, Bryde's whale, minke whale, grey whale; the humpback whale; and the various right whales.

Although whales are famed for the massive size reached by some species, such as the blue whale (the largest animal to ever live), others are relatively small like the pygmy right whale which grows to about 20 feet [1]. Though whales have many traits in common with fish (including fins and tails) they are classified as mammals under the Linnaean taxonomy classification system because they breath air and lactate. Whales have a number of remarkable features including:

  • they decide when to breathe, rather than breathing unconsciously
  • they sleep 8 hours a day, yet need to be conscious to breathe
  • they can communicate with each other by making remarkably loud noises
  • these extraordinary noises can travel for miles under water
  • the females nurse their calves while swimming underwater
  • the males have a unique cooling system for their internal reproductive organs
  • some have two blow-holes, but others only have one
  • the blow-holes pass air above water, yet resist intense pressure underwater
  • they have massive brains, much larger than the brains of other mammals
  • Whales along with humans and horses are some of the few mammal species that do not possess baculum (penile bone)

Evolution and taxonomy

The question of how whales and their relatives could have evolved from terrestrial mammals has taxed evolutionary biologists since Darwin's suggestion that they may have evolved from ancient bears. In more recent times molecular and fossil evidence has been used to suggest that modern whales and their relatives arose from ancient artiodactyls (even-toed ungulates) with the closest living relative of all whales being hippopotami.[2] This kinship has been termed the whippo hypothesis. Evolutionary biologists estimate the last ancestor of whales and hippos lived about 25 million years ago,[3] which contrasts with the young earth creationist position that whales were created about 6000 years ago when God created the earth.[4][5][6]

There are two kinds of whales: toothed whales of the suborder Odontoceti (which includes dolphins and porpoises), and Baleen whales of the suborder Mysticeti.

Toothed whales include:

  • Killer Whales
  • Sperm Whales
  • Narwhales

Baleen whales include:

  • Blue Whales
  • Gray Whales
  • Humpback Whales

Whales in the Bible

The great fish that swallowed Jonah,

Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Jonah 1:17

is often thought of as being a whale, although the actual creature is unknown and may have been something unknown to science, having been specially prepared by God.

Whales in literature

Arguably the most famous book about whales is Herman Melville's Moby Dick, about a whaling-ship captain obsessed with hunting down the sperm whale (Moby Dick) which had bitten off one of his legs.

See Also


  1. [1]American Cetacean Society website
  2. [2] Theodore, JM (2004) Molecular Clock Divergence Estimates And The Fossil Record Of Cetartiodactyla The Journal Of Paleontology 78:39-44
  3. [3] UCLA Berkley Understanding Evolution for Teachers website
  4. Sarfati, Jonathan Whale evolution? Refuting Evolution, Chapter 5.
  5. Batten, Don, A whale of a tale? Journal of Creation 8(1):2–3, April 1994.
  6. Williams, Alexander, and Sarfati, Jonathan, Not at all like a whale, Creation 27(2):20–22, March 2005.