Celebrating World Whale Day
20th February 2021
Happy World Whale Day! These gentle giants living in our oceans are celebrated today to help raise awareness and educate us about protecting these mammals and their habitat.
Some of us have been fortunate to experience a glimpse of whales breaching our horizons and what a beautiful sight!
There are over 90 cetacean species which include whales, dolphins and porpoises. When it comes to the whale family, scientists and researchers have not yet agreed on the actual number of whale species living in our oceans but there are two types of whale; baleen and toothed. The main difference between these two types are the way they feed and what they have inside their mouth.
Known as toothless whales they have baleen instead of teeth. Baleen is made out of keratin, the same protein that makes up our fingernails, hair and animal horns; they are strong, flexible and feathered at the edges. They are filter feeding specialists that collect shrimp-like krill, plankton and small fish from the sea. These bristly baleen plates filter, sieve or trap the whales favourite prey from seawater inside their mouths. They are nick-named the ‘great whales’ yet they survive on the teeniest animals in the ocean!
Some of the species of Baleen Whales include Humpback, Minke, Bowhead & Blue whale.
As the name suggests, toothed whales are born with teeth and are generally considered the hunters of the cetacean family. They include species as small as the Vaquita and as large as the Sperm whale, and show diverse characteristics, distribution, and feeding strategies. Toothed whales are generally smaller than baleen whales with the largest being the Sperm Whale. Species such as the Killer Whale, Pilot Whale and Melon Headed Whale also belong to the toothed whale family, however these marine mammals are actually part of the dolphin family.
Toothed Whales are very social and are always with others; they commonly live in groups known as pods. They are amongst the most intelligent creatures on Earth; they have large brains and show complex behaviour, including the ability to teach others and learn from one another. The variety of foods they consume can vary from one species to the other. Some are known to eat everything from many species of fish, squid, octopus and crustaceans to marine animals such as sharks, penguins, seals and sea lions.
Some of the species of Toothed Whales include Sperm, Beluga, Narwhal & Killer Whale.