Whales are the largest mammals on earth, and they don’t have many natural predators. However, they still aren’t safe. Whale facts show us that these gentle giants could be wiped out by indiscriminate fishing and habitat loss.
Hopefully, by the end of this article, you’ll know enough to want to protect these creatures as much as we do.
So, get ready to learn more cool whale facts than you can shake a stick at!
The Top 10 Whale Facts
- Sei whales can reach speeds of up to 34 miles per hour.
- Bowhead whales can live to be over 200 years old.
- Fin whales can breed with blue whales, producing a hybrid fin-blue whale.
- Beluga whales can live in both salt and freshwater.
- A sperm whale’s brain can weigh up to 20 pounds.
- Nursing blue whales produce 50 gallons of milk per day.
- Narwhal tusk facts reveal their “tusks” are actually teeth.
- Narwhals can dive over a mile deep when hunting.
- Baleen whales do not echolocate, but toothed whales do.
- A blue whale’s penis is around 8 feet long on average.
Random Whale Facts
Whales are a vital representative of the order Cetacea. They’re some of the most fascinating animals on earth, with ancestry that connects them more to hippos than other marine animals.
In this section, we’ll explore details about a few subspecies of whales.
1. According to sperm whale facts, it was named after spermaceti, which whalers thought was its semen.
It’s not, as some think, a result of their visual similarity to sperm cells.
Sperm whales have an organ in their head filled with fluid called spermaceti. Spermaceti was a key commodity of the whaling industry, but we now know it has nothing to do with the animal’s reproductive system.
2. Humpback whale facts reveal their flippers can grow to an astonishing 16 feet in length.
While they’re not the biggest whales, their flippers sure are. Humpback whale flippers can grow to be a third of the whale’s total length.
That also makes humpback whale flippers the largest appendage in the animal kingdom.
3. According to beluga whale facts, they have a gestation period of 14 months!
(Animal Diversity Web)
Beluga whales are a critically endangered species. Part of that is a result of their slow reproduction.
Beluga moms only have babies every two to three years and stop reproducing in their twenties. Moreover, they spend 20–24 months nursing their young.
4. Bowhead whales, as facts suggest, can live to be over 200 years old.
Bowhead whales may very well hold the title of the longest-living mammals.
A harpoon found in a bowhead whale in 2007 was dated to 1890, which means the animal was over 125 years old when Eskimo hunters killed it.
We’re not sure how old the oldest bowhead whale ever was, but recent studies indicate they could easily live past the age of 200.
5. Although treated as whales, pilot whale facts show they’re actually dolphins.
(New Zealand DOC)
Pilot whales are a matriarchal species, with some females leading pods of hundreds of animals. The name comes from their propensity for following a single leading female—the “pilot.”
Unfortunately, they’re very prone to stranding for reasons that are still not entirely clear. The largest such event saw over 1,000 animals stranded at the Chatham Islands.
6. Gray whale facts about migratory patterns reveal these animals take 12,430-mile round trips.
Like most whales, gray whales are prolific migrators. But these fantastic animals take migration to extremes, navigating from Alaskan waters all the way to the Mexican coast and back during migrations.
7. Sei whales can reach speeds of over 34 miles per hour.
Sei whale facts indicate they are faster than fin whales, but only in very short bursts.
This makes them the fastest whales. Unfortunately, they’re also notoriously hard to identify at sea, making species surveys difficult.
8. Fin whales can breed with blue whales, producing a hybrid fin-blue whale.
If you’re looking for some weird whale facts, this is one of the strangest.
Fin whale facts show them to be second in size only to blue whales, and researchers have confirmed that they can interbreed.
Scientists thought the hybrid fin-blue whales were infertile until genetic testing recently identified an animal with a fin whale dad and a hybrid mom. Whether male hybrids can produce offspring is still unclear.
9. A sperm whale’s brain can weigh up to 20 pounds.
Most cool facts about whales have to do with their staggering size, so it should come as no surprise that a whale has the biggest brain.
But despite having such a large brain, sperm whales don’t have the largest brain relative to body size, even among cetaceans — dolphins trump them in that department.
10. Sperm whale “poop” can be worth up to $10,000 per pound.
(CNN, ABC News, NHM UK)
Ambergris is a scarce substance resulting from sperm whales’ indigestion. Facts about these whales still show it’s among the most valuable naturally occurring substances.
Scientists all agree it comes from sperm whales, but there’s some disagreement about where exactly. It’s often thought to be whale vomit, but at least one expert disagrees, saying it “comes from the same place as poop.”
11. Only two spade-toothed beaked whales have been seen in the last 150 years.
(Cell, National Geographic)
The spade-toothed whale, facts show, is the rarest of all whales. Researchers aren’t even sure that any living animals remain of the species.
The first time they were seen alive was in 2010, beached in New Zealand. Unfortunately, the two whales died by the time members of the Department of Conservation arrived at the scene.
12. Beluga whales can live in both salt and freshwater.
Many species of whale migrate to waters with various levels of salinity. Interesting facts about beluga whales include their ability to adapt to life in freshwater for long periods.
Few whale species can match the same level of adaptability.
13. North Atlantic right whale facts reveal they are about three feet shorter on average than they were in 1981.
North Atlantic right whales are shrinking categorically as a species. Researchers used aerial photography to track how individual whales changed over the years.
Scientists blame commercial fishing for the reduced size. Commercial fishing produced over 94 million tons of fish in 2018, and the whales often get stuck in the vast amounts of equipment used to fish, affecting their feeding and growth.
Blue Whale Facts, Novelties, and Oddities
As you probably already know, blue whales are the largest animals on the planet.
But there’s probably a whole lot you don’t know about these larger-than-life creatures. Let’s see if we can change that with these facts.
14. Blue whales can grow to be over 100 feet long and weigh as much as 40 elephants.
Let’s start off our facts about blue whales by tackling their mammoth size. These titans of the ocean can grow to be as long as 100 feet!
Even a newborn blue whale can weigh almost 6,000 pounds. As far as biologists can tell, the blue whale is the largest animal ever to have graced our planet, including dinosaurs.
15. The blue whale is one of the loudest animals in the world, with vocalizations of over 188 decibels.
Blue whale fun facts include their ability to blow out your eardrums underwater from how loud they can be. But their loudness has to do with how we perceive sound.
Sperm whales communicate with high-frequency clicks that we can barely hear, but they easily reach 230 decibels or more.
16. Nursing blue whales produce 50 gallons of milk per day.
Biologists are still learning a lot about blue whales, and interesting facts about them show that they’re excellent mothers.
They nurse their young for five to seven months after they’re born. During that time, infant blue whales can gain up to 200 pounds a day.
17. A blue whale’s penis is around 8 feet long on average.
Blue whale penis facts unsurprisingly show they’re the most well-endowed in the animal kingdom.
They complement their sizable members with testicles that can grow to weigh up to 150 pounds.
Facts About The Narwhal — A Real-life Unicorn
The first time you heard about narwhals, you might have thought someone was pranking you. And yet, these magnificent animals are anything but fantasy.
Cetaceans handle captivity poorly due partly to inadequate swimming space and lack of social interaction, and so far, all attempts to keep narwhals captive have resulted in their death.
That means most people will never see a narwhal up close, making them even more intriguing. Let’s take a look at some other little-known facts about them.
18. Narwhal tusk facts reveal their “tusks” are actually teeth.
Narwhals are toothed whales, but only because of their tusks. The tusk is actually a tooth with millions of nerve endings, and some narwhals may even have two of them. It’s mainly males that have a tusk, but some females grow it too.
They never grow chewing teeth, though — they swallow prey whole.
19. Narwhals can dive over a mile deep when hunting.
When it comes to feeding, narwhal whale facts show that they spend about two-thirds of their time searching for prey.
Narwhal feeding usually occurs during deep dives of over 1,000 feet underwater. However, they’ve been recorded diving much deeper.
20. Innuit communities are allowed to hunt narwhals.
Facts about narwhals and their taxonomy place them under the shelter of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. However, authorities grant Innuit people a special exemption to hunt them as a result of their historical reliance on the animals and sustainable hunting practices.
21. Medieval Europeans believed narwhal tusks were magical.
There are many interesting facts about narwhals, their tusks, and the superstitions surrounding them.
Owing mainly to the myth of the unicorn, wealthy Europeans in the middle ages paid vast sums of money to own narwhal tusks. Many believed narwhal ivory was a unicorn horn and used it as a cure-all.
22. Narwhal habitat facts indicate they spend up to five months under the ice, only coming up briefly for air.
While many Arctic whale species migrate to warmer waters for part of the year, narwhals don’t. Instead, they spend their entire lives in the Arctic.
23. A narwhal’s tusk can bend about a foot at the tip before breaking.
Fun facts about narwhals and their unique tusks never fail to fascinate. Although it seems stiff from afar, the tusk is quite flexible.
Its structure is the opposite of a human tooth. Instead of having a soft inner structure with a hard outside layer like our teeth, narwhal tusks have a soft, nerve-rich outside with a hard inner core.
Baleen Whale and Toothed Whale Facts
Baleen whales are named so after the keratinous plates they have instead of teeth. Here are some ways in which they differ from toothed whales.
24. Baleen whales eat mainly krill, and they do so through filtration.
(National History Museum)
Often-cited baleen whale facts have to do with the animal’s diet. It seems strange that the largest animals on earth feed on some of the smallest.
To eat, baleen whales allow water to pass through their bristly baleen plates and capture tiny crustaceans called krill. Blue whales can eat up to four tons of krill per day.
25. The largest baleen whale has a throat diameter of only 4–8 inches.
(NOYO Center, National Geographic)
Baleen whales, facts tell us, couldn’t eat humans even if they wanted to. Since they eat such small prey, they have correspondingly small throats.
The only whale that might be able to eat a human is the sperm whale, a toothed whale. But no such incident has ever happened.
26. Baleen whales do not echolocate, but toothed whales do.
Because they hunt marine mammals, fish, and squid, toothed whale facts show that all the species in that group echolocate.
As filtration feeders, baleen whales don’t have the need or the ability to echolocate. Instead, baleen whales use sounds only to communicate with other whales.
27. Whale statistics show there are only 15 types of baleen whales that we know of.
(Whale and Dolphin Conservation)
There are many more kinds of toothed whales than their filtration-feeding cousins. According to whale stats, biologists know of 76 species of toothed whales and only 15 baleen whales.
Do whales sleep?
Like all mammals, whales need to sleep. But they still need to breathe consciously, so biologists compare what whales do to brief napping rather than sleeping.
Whales rest by either staying motionless in the water, either horizontally or vertically — or by slowly swimming alongside other whales.
Why are whales endangered?
Not all whale species are currently endangered, but those that do share many of the same threats.
- Whaling, although mostly outlawed, devastated whale populations that still haven’t recovered.
- Facts about whales show that climate change is leading to losses in, both, their habitats and their food sources.
- Over 100,000 marine mammals die every year as a result of plastic pollution, including whales.
- Commercial fishing gear and food source depletion from commercial fishing.
How many whales are killed each year?
Whaling is still a concern, but only around 1,000 animals are hunted each year by commercial fishing boats from Iceland, Japan, and Norway.
However, shipping, commercial fishing bycatch, and habitat loss lead to the deaths of over 300,000 whales and other marine mammals annually.
Does a whale have teeth?
Some whales have teeth, and they’re appropriately named toothed whales. Baleen whales, on the other hand, don’t have teeth.
Instead, baleen whales have plates in their mouth made of the same substance that’s in our hair. These hairy plates act as filters to capture tiny crustaceans the whales feed on.
Toothed whales feed on squid, sharks, and other fish.
How many whales are left in the world in 2022?
(IWC, BBC, USA Today)
Across all species of whales, there are hundreds of thousands of animals left.
However, some species are much less represented than others. For instance, researchers estimate only about 25,000 blue whales are left.
There are around 85,000 fin whales with unsurveyed populations in the Southern hemisphere.
Humpback whales have made a substantial recovery, with around 150,000 in the world today.
What is the rarest whale?
The spade-toothed whale is so rare that only two animals have ever been seen. And, those two were beached — none were ever spotted at sea.
Until someone spots one, we can’t be sure they’re even around anymore.
Only a few hundred North Pacific right whales are left, making them the rarest whale that we can certainly know still exists.
How big is a blue whale?
Blue whales grow to be up to 100 feet long and can weigh around 400,000 pounds.
Why do narwhals have tusks?
No one knows for sure, but a recent study suggests it has to do with sexual selection. Male narwhals may use their tusks to compete for the attention of females.
However, narwhals have been observed using tusks to stun fish. Other theories suggest they may use them to detect environmental changes and communicate with other narwhals.
Whales may be the largest animals on our planet. But they’re also fellow mammals with a calm disposition toward us humans.
In part, that disposition led to their near-eradication, so we’ve got a lot to make up for.
Armed with these whale facts, you’re ready to start changing hearts and minds. Share what you know about these astonishing animals.
- ABC News
- Animal Diversity Web
- Australian DAWE
- National Geographic
- National Geographic
- National Geographic
- National Geographic
- National Geographic
- National History Museum
- New Zealand DOC
- NHM UK
- NOYO Center
- Ocean Conservancy
- Science Focus
- Smithsonian Magazine
- The Met
- Whale and Dolphin Conservation
- Whales Online
- Whales Online