When early whalers first began to capture sperm whales they discovered that the head was full of a very fine oil. This oil became one of the most valuable parts of the sperm whale in the years to come. To these whalers, the oil reminded them of human semen -- and so they dubbed this the sperm whale. --From Lisa
2) Chase Goller asks, "How do whales keep water out of their lungs?"
Whales and dolphins have their nostrils on top of their head. These are called "blowholes" and they close very tightly with muscles whenever the animal is underwater. It comes very naturally to a whale or dolphin to contract these muscles as the animal comes to the surface, thus opening the nostrils to expel air (called a "blow"), to take a deep breath, and then to relax these muscles so that the nostrils slam tightly closed before the animal goes under water again. All of this happens in only a few seconds (or less for small dolphins) and is largely involuntary (in the same way that your breathing is involuntary). Usually when these animals breathe, they are moving forward so water tends to slide off the top of their head. This means that when the blowhole opens, the top of the head is pretty dry. Finally, whales and dolphins cannot breathe through their mouths so when they eat a fish or a squid deep below the water surface, water can get into their stomach (and some does) but not into their lungs. --From Lisa ==========================
3) Mike Couto asks, "How deep can a whale dive?"
It depends upon which species of whale you are talking about. Generally, toothed whales (like beaked whales and sperm whales) dive deeper than baleen whales (like gray, blue, humpback whales). This is because toothed whales like to eat squid that live deep below the water surface while baleen whales eat small fishes and crustaceans which generally do not live so deep. And generally, the bigger the animal, the deeper it can dive. The champion diver of the whales is the sperm whale. Large males can dive as deep as 2800 meters (that's over 9,000 feet -- almost 2 miles down!) and stay under the water for an hour or more. As you can imagine, whales have evolved special adaptations to be able to deal with the tremendous pressure caused by the weight of so much water on them when they are down so deep, and they also have special adaptations which allow them to hold their breath for such a long time. --From Lisa
4) Jessica Manner wonders "How big are newborn gray whales?"
About 15 feet. (The adults grow to about 45 feet long). A calf will stay with its mother for about a year and nurse for 9 months of that time. After that, it is on its own. Whales in general do not have long periods of parental care. Dolphins are different in that calves will stay with the mother for several years at least, and sometimes, as in the case of killer whales, daughters and mothers live together in the same group for a lifetime. --From Lisa ==========================
5) Jonnie Graf asks "Why are some whales shy while others are not?"
The answer is, we really don't know. There are certainly species that almost never allow a boat to come close to them, such as the pygmy sperm whale or almost all of the beaked whales, and there are others that are easily approachable and even come over to boats to ride the bow wave, such as the bottlenose dolphin. In many cases, the most friendly species are those that live near to the coast. These animals are used to seeing ships and other human inventions so are not afraid of them. There are other animals that are friendly during some times and not so friendly at others. Gray whales migrate along the west coast of the United States from as far north as Alaska where they feed, all the way down to the lagoons off Baja California in Mexico, where they give birth to their calves. Interestingly, when the whales are feeding, they are usually not interested in boats but in the lagoons, they are friendly, often approach small vessels, and even allow themselves to be petted by human tourists! --From Lisa
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