Whales are the largest animals on Earth and they live in every ocean. The massive mammals range from the 600-pound dwarf sperm whale to the colossal blue whale, which can weigh more than 200 tons and stretch up to 100 feet long—almost as long as a professional basketball court.Whales are warm-blooded creatures that nurse their young.
There are two types of whales: toothed and baleen. Toothed whales, as the name suggests, have teeth, which are used to hunt and eat squid, fish, and seals. Toothed whales include sperm whales, as well as dolphins, porpoises, and orcas, among others. The narwhal’s “horn” is actually one long tooth protruding through its lip.
Baleen whales are larger than toothed whales, for the most part. They include blue whales, humpbacks, right whales, bowhead whales, and others. They feed by straining tiny shrimp-like creatures called krill through the fringed plates of long, fingernail-like material called baleen attached to their upper jaws. (Continue reading from National Geographic)
Whales are at the top of the food chain and have an important role in the overall health of the marine environment. Whales play a significant role in capturing carbon from the atmosphere; each great whale sequesters an estimated 33 tons of CO2 on average, thus playing their part in the fight against climate change.
Unfortunately, their large size and mythical aura does not protect them; six out of the 13 great whale species are classified as endangered or vulnerable, even after decades of protection. An estimated minimum of 300,000 whales and dolphins are killed each year as a result of fisheries bycatch, while others succumb to a myriad of threats including shipping and habitat loss. (Continue reading from World Wildlife Foundation)