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Table of Contents
Whales are the largest animals that have ever lived on earth and are the largest animals that live in the ocean. They are even bigger than the largest dinosaur and it is believed that millions of years ago, whales probably walked upon land. Their back legs disappeared over time and their front legs became flippers. Blue whales can weigh over 150 tons and be over 100 feet in length. Humpback Whales are also big, weighing up to 45 tons. Flippers of the humpback whale can be as long as 15 feet.
Keep reading for more information on this incredible animal or download our comprehensive worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Characteristics of Whales
- Whales are mammals, so they are warm-blooded, they feed milk to their babies, and breathe air.
- Since whales are not fish, they do not have gills so they cannot breathe underwater, although they can hold their breath for a really long time. For example, a sperm whale can hold its breath for 90 minutes, while the record is held by a Cuvier’s beaked whale that can hold its breath for 220 minutes!
- Whales must eventually come up to the surface to get air. The air is breathed in and out through their “blowhole.” This is basically a nostril and can be found at the top of their head.
- Whales live in groups called “pods.” These can range from small family pods of a mother and her babies to larger pods of 30 individuals. When the conditions are just right, pods of whales can come together to form super pods of hundreds of individuals!
- A baby whale is called a “calf”, a female whale is called a “cow”, and a male whale is called a “bull”.
- Whales live a long time. A humpback whale can live for 45 years while a Blue whale can live as long as 90 years. They can have babies every two to four years.
Types of Whales
- There are two main types of whales. These are called baleen whales, and toothed whales. Baleen whales have two nostrils, while toothed whales have only one.
- Baleen whales are filter feeders and have baleen plates in their mouths to filter krill. They look like very large bristle brushes and are also called “whale bone”.
- Baleen is a very hard and strong substance and can be compared with the same substance that makes up the horns on some animals.
- Examples of baleen whales include humpback whales and blue whales that eat krill and small fish. Other species of baleen whale include the fin whale, gray whale, bowhead, Bryde’s, right whale, minke whale, and sei whale.
- Toothed whales have teeth in their mouths. Examples of toothed whales include sperm whales that eat giant squid. Other examples include killer whales, beluga whales, and pilot whales.
- There are 76 species of toothed whale and there are 15 species of baleen whale.
Environment of Whales
- Whales can be found in all the oceans of the world, but some whales prefer specific regions. For example, blue whales and killer whales can be found in every ocean around the world, while southern right whales prefer the southern and Antarctic oceans.
- Whales migrate thousands of miles every year, which is further than any other animal. They do this to follow food and to move to warmer waters to breed and have their babies. Some whale migration routes are between 1,800 and 3,000 miles long!
- Whales generally eat during the summer months to build up layers of blubber or fat to keep them warm in the winter. When the water begins to cool, the whales begin their migration to warmer waters.
- They do not eat during their migration. All they do is swim and rest for short periods of time.
Behavior of Whales
- Whales can sometimes be seen close to shore. This is usually when you can see them “blowing”. This is not a spout of water, but mist from them projecting air out of the water.
- When whales jump, it is called breaching. They also slap their flippers and tails on the water to communicate with other whales.
- Sound travels very far in the water and the oceans are very big, so whales sing to communicate.
- Whales are the loudest animals in the world. Each species has its own songs and voice which can sound like clicks, chirps, whistles, moans, groans, and humming to talk to each other. These sounds they make are called “Whale Song”.
- Whales are the loudest animals in the world. They can reach volumes of 180 decibels, which is the same as jet planes.
- When whales sleep, they stay at the top of the water, with their blowhole above the surface. The sperm whale sleeps upright with its head pointing up and its tail pointing down.
- Whales need to eat a lot of food – as much as two tons of krill a day.
- Whales swim by moving their tails up and down and using their flippers, which also help them to turn. Some whales, such as the sei, can swim more than 30 miles per hour.
Whales and humans
- Whales have been important to humans for thousands of years. Some cultures like those living in Alaska, Greenland, and Siberia traditionally hunted whales for food.
- In the 18th and 19th centuries, industrial whaling meant thousands of whales were killed for their blubber which was used in cosmetics, lamp oil, fuel, candles, and soap. The right whale was given its name because it was the right whale to hunt – it was easy to catch and kill.
- Moby Dick is an 1851 novel by Herman Melville about a sailor obsessed with trying to hunt and kill a huge white sperm whale in revenge for it biting off his leg.
- Intense whaling drove many species to the brink of extinction. So in 1971, the US banned whaling, and the International Whaling Commission banned whaling in 1986 with only a few exceptions allowed.
- Since then, many whale species have started to recover, but their numbers are still too low.
- Now, whales face other dangers such as collisions with ships, noise pollution in the ocean, depleted fish stocks from overfishing, and unstable ecosystems from climate change.
This bundle contains 10 ready-to-use Whale Worksheets that are perfect for students who want to learn more about Whales which are the largest animals that have ever lived on earth and are the largest animals that live in the ocean.
Download includes the following worksheets:
- Whale Facts
- Color Me
- The Ancient Giant
- Meet the Different Species
- Suborder Mysticeti – Match the Whale
- Suborder Odontoceti – Word Search
- The Case of the Whale Shark
- Anatomy of a Whale
- Heavyweight Whales
- Whale Habitat
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Link will appear as Whale Facts and Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, January 16, 2022
Use With Any Curriculum
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