Killer whales (orcas; which are actually dolphins) off San Juan Island, WA

Cetaceans (whales, porpoises, dolphins) are some of the most mysterious animals (in my opinion). Here, we walk through some of my favorite marine mammals

Humpback whales grow up to 40-60 ft and up to 44 tons. They have two blow holes. These whales use a technique called bubble fishing, which means they surround their prey in bubbles so they form a tight fish ball and can easily be captured. Humpback whales have unique tails, which are all identified by the College of the Atlantic — they can spot individuals based solely on what their tail looks like! Humpbacks have known migration patterns and sing beautiful songs to one another for communication.

Narwhales are my personal favorite. They live in the arctic and are very mysterious. Their famous tusk is actually a tooth! The left tooth to be specific. They only have two teeth– the right tooth is little and in the mouth. The tusk tooth is soft on the outside and hard on the inside (opposite of most teeth). It is packed with nerves and holes to let seawater in. But, we still don’t know what the tusk is used for! Perhaps to sense environmental cues?

Blue whales are the largest known animal – they grow up to 98ft and up to 190 tons. They eat lots of krill (tiny crustaceans) to maintain their giant form. Blue whale calves drink 380-570L of milk a DAY. Unfortunately, these whales were hunted to almost extinction by whalers.

Killer whales (aka orcas)— NOT ACTUALLY WHALES THEY ARE DOLPHINS. They have matriarchal societies, where they form pods within populations with a mother leader. Killer whales have a 17mo pregnancy and undergo menopause when they are 30-40 years old. They are one of the few species we know of to undergo menopause (humans, pilot whales, belugas, and narwhales do as well)– we are finding more and more species that do so. Side note– There is little evolutionary benefit to menopause. This is the stage at which females stop reproducing (and usually die). So it is somewhat of an enigma in a lot of different capacities. Killer whales can live to be upwards of 90 years old. The Pacific North West orca population is facing a lot of problems at the moment.

Whales are pretty rad.