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Cetaceans hold many records in the animal kingdom and are exceptional in many ways. Some of
their most spectacular attributes are listed below:
Beaked Whales (various genera and species)
- The pygmy beaked whale was only discovered in 1976 when Scientists found a skull on
a fish market in Peru. The whale is sometimes referred to as the Peruvian beaked whale.
- A northern bottlenose whale became stranded in the River Thames in January 2006.
Rescue attempts failed and now the ‘Thames whale’ skeleton is stored at The Natural
History Museum pending further research. The museum hopes one day to put the skeleton
on public display.
Beluga Whales (Delphinapterus leucas)
- The beluga whale’s large repertoire of sounds and noisy behaviour has earned
itself the nickname ‘sea canary’.
- A not so fun fact: Belugas from the Gulf of St. Lawrence are so polluted with
chemicals that when they die they are classed as toxic waste.
Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus)
- Weighing up to 180 tonnes, and achieving lengths of 33 metres, this is probably the largest animal ever to live on Earth.
- The tongue of this whale is as heavy as an elephant!
- During their growth phase, these animals can add 66 kg to their total body weight per day. This makes them the fastest growing animals (in absolute terms).
- It is estimated that it takes a tonne to fill the stomach of a blue whale.
Bowhead Whale (Balaena mysticetus)
- Bowhead whales are probably the longest-lived mammals ever. Ancient arrowheads
found embedded in their blubber and chemical analysis of eye tissue has lead to estimates
of over 200 years for some individuals.
Killer Whale (Orcinus orca)
- Killer whales are known to attack and sometimes kill other large whales, even adult female and young sperm whales.
Narwhals (Monodon monoceros)
- Narwhals inherit their name from the Old Norse word ‘náhvalr’, meaning ‘corpse
whale’! This may refer to its ability to lie belly up and motionless at the sea surface.
- • The long spiral narwhal tusk is the source of the myth of the unicorn.
Queen Elizabeth I is alleged to have purchased a tusk at a cost equivalent of a
castle, using it as a sceptre.
Right Whales (Eubalaena glacialis/japonica/australis)
- Right whales were so named because whalers thought they were the 'right' whale to hunt.
Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus)
- Sperm whales can dive exceptionally deep, up to a mile or even deeper. Stomach contents of dead whales and scars on their skins show that in these depths they battle with and prey on the enigmatic giant squid, Architeuthis.
- They were named after the discovery of an oily white substance present in the head cavity. This was mistaken for sperm, named “spermaceti” (Latin for ‘sperm of whale’) and gave the sperm whale its common name.
- A sperm whale is the star of the 19th century novel, Moby-Dick
- These animals consumes about a ton of food every day.
- At an average of about 8 kg, sperm whales have the largest brains in the whole animal kingdom.