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12 Interesting Facts About Whales

Gray Whale Breaching Near Sailboat off Dana Point

There are so many ‘whaley’ interesting facts about whales, we could talk about them all month long! The most amazing whale facts are the ones that not only broaden our knowledge of whales species as a whole but also expand people’s knowledge about these amazing creatures so that together, we can protect these magnificent mammals. Like all mammals, whales breathe oxygen, give birth to their young, drink milk, and have the presence of hair at some point in their lives. Every single day out on the water is an opportunity to educate our passengers more and more about these miraculous creatures. The most amazing way to connect with these animals is by joining us on a trip, and until then, we are thrilled you are engaged and reading along with us here.

Read further to learn more amazing whale facts below.

1. Blue Whales are the largest animals to have ever lived on planet earth

Our number one whale fact starts with size. Weighing over 150 tons and extending to lengths over 100 feet in some parts of the world, the blue whale holds the title of the largest mammal on earth. This fact tops the chart of whale facts interesting to most of our passengers and readers because these magnificent mammals are bigger than even the largest dinosaurs to ever roam the earth. The largest blue whale ever recorded was an astonishing 110 feet in length. The heaviest blue whale ever recorded was a large and in charge female who tipped the scales at an astonishing 418,878 pounds. That’s nearly 190 tons or the same as saying she was the same weight of about 30 elephants or roughly 2,500 people. Now that is BIG!

In Dana Point, California, the Whale Watching Capital of the World®, blue whale season typically begins near the end of May and runs through October as these grey goliaths migrate through our waters in search of their favorite food. Nothing about the blue whale is small. Their hearts are the size of a Volkswagen Beetle car, their arteries the size of a 9-inch dinner plate, and their massive tongue weighs as much as a single elephant. At birth, newborn blue whales already reach close to 23 feet and will consume anywhere from 100-150 gallons of rich, fat nutrient-dense milk per day. Sadly, blue whales are still on the endangered species list, with only 25,000 blue whales left to swim freely on earth, so catching a glimpse of these gentle giants out at sea is a miraculous sight to see here in Dana Point, California.

2. Blue Whales aren’t a true blue in color

Blue whale facts interesting to many of our passengers also include their coloring and how blue whales are not actually blue. Instead, blue whales gain their colorful names from the beautiful blue color of the water that is seen all around them as these gentle giants rise to the surface for a breath of fresh air. Thousands of tiny diatoms on their skin create the beautiful blue glow of the water around them making these beauties appear blue instead of their mottled gray color. In the right environments, such as in Antarctica, these same diatoms or planktonic photosynthesizers will build up on their stomachs and can also make their undersides seem as though they have a yellowish tint. And if you are lucky enough to see one, you will join the 1% of all people who have had the opportunity to see a blue whale. In Dana Point, California, you have the chance to see one all summer long! Pretty cool right? We think so too.

3. Dolphins are whales, but whales aren’t dolphins

You may have heard us say that all whales are dolphins, but not all dolphins are whales. These are whale facts interesting to our passengers and readers alike, however, they can also sometimes be confusing! One of the main differentiating factors between whales and dolphins, besides their sheer size, is the fact that whales have two blowholes, unlike dolphins who only have one. It is believed that whales require two blowholes to be as efficient as possible when it comes to their lung capacity since whales participate in huge migrations. Some species travel thousands of miles including the gray whale who makes a 12,000-mile round trip journey every year to give birth to their young.

4. Whales can store oxygen molecules in their bodies

Whale facts interesting to many researchers are how efficient large whales are with their lung capacity. Some whales like the sperm whale spend much of their lives searching the vast ocean for their deep-dwelling delicacies. Feeding on squid takes time to get down to their ocean depth and requires this type of whale to hold their breath underwater, sometimes for up to 90 minutes. Scientists and researchers believe that the presence of two blowholes may help larger whales maximize their use of oxygen while they reduce their heart rate and slow their breath. This allows them to exhale more efficiently and use 90% of their total lung capacity, keeping them extremely efficient while underwater.

5. Gray whales can travel over 14,000 miles round trip

One very special whale species that visit Dana Point, California each year during the late Autumn months through the onset of spring is Eschrichtius robustus or commonly known as the gray whale. These crusty creatures grace our presence every single year during part of their migration from the Bering Sea as they migrate down to Baja to birth their young. Whale facts interesting and incredible to us is that gray whales will not feed during their entire journey down south to warmer waters. Instead, they rely on their blubber or body fat to fuel their journey. Incredible right?

6. Sperm whales have the biggest brains of any animal on earth!

Whale facts interesting to even our youngest passengers is…brain size. While the blue whale may hold the heavyweight title and award for the longest length, Physeter macrocephalus or sperm whale is the largest of the toothed whales and is responsible for producing the largest brain on the planet. Easily recognizable by their large, uniquely shaped heads holding a very special substance called spermaceti, the sperm whale’s brain weighs about five times as much as a human brain. The extent of their highly specialized intelligence remains partially a mystery due to a lack of our understanding of these amazing animals because of their elusive surface behaviors.

“Light doesn’t penetrate beneath the surface of the water, so ocean creatures like whales and dolphins and even 800 species of fish communicate by sound. And a North Atlantic right whale can transmit across hundreds of miles.” ~ Rose George

7. Whales communicate through using sound

More whale facts interesting to audiologists and musical conductors as much as marine biologists are how whales communicate with one another. Unlike toothed whales who communicate through a series of unique clicks and whistles, baleen whales communicate through the use of moans, grunts, and groans. For baleen whales, it is “all about that bass, no treble.” The lower frequency sounds allow their calls to travel longer distances with far less distortion. Humpback whales can be seen all year long in Dana Point, and are known for having the most beautiful sounding songs of all the whale species. Beneath the water is an orchestra of sounds and humpback males are center stage. These enormous giants will sing for hours and are the record holders for singing the longest songs with some sonnets lasting 10 minutes on repeat for hours with some lasting for an entire day. Blue whales are typically solitary travelers and their journeys require vast migrations across the globe, making their voices one of the longest to travel. While their frequency is too low for human ears to hear, their moans can be heard by other blue whales up to 500 miles away.

8. Sperm whales are the loudest animals on earth

Having the biggest brain isn’t the only title sperm whales tout. Sperm whales also have the loudest sound on earth, which is why whale facts interesting enough to make our top list had to include the fact that these whales are louder than a jet plane engine taking off in flight. Reaching 230 dB, the communicative nature of the sperm whale can physically blow out a human’s eardrums and can even vibrate the human body to death, if heard in close proximity. This comes in quite handy when feeding on giant squid reaching over 40 feet in length. Their power-pact sound can stun their prey, giving them the advantage when it comes to what’s on the menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

9. A 60,000-pound whale can jump fully out of the water

Whale facts, interesting as well as mind-blowing, must also include the fact that whales can extend their entire bodies completely out of the water! When whales jump out of the water it is called breaching and both whales and dolphins alike are famous for this absolutely incredibly athletic and acrobatic display. Breaching is not a behavior every whale can pull off though. Not every whale swimming in the ocean will launch its massive body into the air. When a whale is air-bound, it is ‘whaley’ amazing!! What makes whale facts interesting is how Humpback whales are considered to be the most acrobatic of all the larger whale species and when their 60,000-pound massive body launches out of the water, it is a sight unforgettable to anyone who sees it. One of our most frequently asked questions always includes “why do whales breach”, so adding it to our list of whale facts is a no-brainer. Whales that display breaching behaviors that we see in Dana Point, California, the Whale Watching Capital of the World®, can range anywhere between 12,000 to 400,000 pounds depending on the species and when a whale of these magnitudes breaches, it leaves passengers with cameras ready and completely awe-struck.

10. Whales have multiple stomachs

Some of the most hard-to-believe whale facts include whales with multiple stomachs. Astonishingly enough, while most whales and dolphins have between 3-4 stomachs, the largest member of the beaked whale family is the Berardius bairdii, or more commonly called Baird’s whale, which has more. We think you’ll find these next whale facts interesting and astonishing because each Baird’s whale has a total of 13 stomachs. YES, you read that one correctly, we said 13 stomachs! The most commonly asked follow-up question is: “What do they do with all of them?” And the answer is simple, they use them all for digestion. Ranging from 35-42 feet in length with the densest bones of all mammals, these dolphin doppelgangers feed on deep-sea squid from the deepest parts of the ocean. They are also deep divers and can descend to extreme depths of 3,300 to 10,000 feet in search of food. Like the long breath-holding Sperm whales who are also part of the toothed whale family of Odontecetes, Baird’s whales also can remain underwater for longer lengths reaching up to approximately 60 minutes.

11. Whales do not chew their food

More whale facts interesting to our passengers is how whales hunt and consume their prey. Known for their massively large size, these next whale facts may blow your mind. Rorqual whales make up some of the largest animals on our planet, but their main meal source is derived from one of the smallest creatures on the planet called krill. Rorqual whales have the presence of baleen, a keratin-like set of plates that line their mouths in lieu of teeth. These baleen plates act like a sieve to filter food from the water inside of a whale’s mouth. Just like a sieve allows water to drain from the pot, baleen plates trap a whale’s food source inside a whale’s mouth, while water can drain freely through the plates. Baleen plates range in length depending on the species of whale making these next sets of whale facts interesting too!

Fin whales are especially known for their beautiful and unique asymmetric coloring. Their lower jaw is white on one side and gray to dark charcoal color on the opposite side. Inside their mouths, this asymmetry continues inside the baleen plates. Black baleen is found on the right side and cream-colored baleen on the left. Now those whale facts are a work of art!

12. Whales eat some of the smallest prey on earth

Our last whale facts interesting to see from the water are a little more on the weirder side. As we wrap up our list we cannot leave out the color of whale poop. Yes, we said it, and we will say it again, “poop.” As we mentioned earlier, rorqual whales spend the majority of their lives eating zooplankton invertebrates called krill. Krill is the common name for any member of the crustacean order Euphausiacea and in Norweigan, krill translates to ‘whale food’. These tiny invertebrates are red and when digested by whales, they leave behind a red substance floating on the water. Whale feces is red due to the high iron content in krill. Because blue whales consume up to 3 tons of krill per day, they can excrete up to nearly 55 gallons or 200 liters of feces in just one bowel movement. Now that’s a whale fact that is a little gross, but also cool at the same time.

Many whale species visit our waters all year long and we can’t wait to see you out on a whale watching cruise so that we can share more interesting (and weird) whale facts with you when we see you in person.

Until next time,

Capt. Dave’s Whale Watching and Dolphin Safari

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