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Up Close: Whales

Yisrael Rutman

Whales have fascinated us for centuries. A blowhole for a nose, a giant strainer for teeth, eyes miles apart. Let’s take a closer look

Thursday, October 06, 2016

 Mishpacha image

Photo: Shutterstock

L ength: Whales are the largest creatures on Earth.

But one size doesn’t fit all. The biggest is the Blue Whale, which can weigh 150 tons and measure up to 100 feet — longer than two school buses parked end to end. The Minke Whale is the midget of the species, “only” about 30 feet. 

Fins and Flippers: Whales swim by moving their tail fins and lowering their body up and down. The fins (called flukes) are used for steering. They can move through the water as fast as 22 miles per hour, about the same speed as an average cruise ship.

Blowhole: Whales don’t have a nose. We looked all over and couldn’t find one. But they do have a hole, called a blowhole, on top of their heads. Whales spend most of their time underwater, living on the air they take in before a dive. When returning to the surface, they blow out air, water, and mucus through this hole. In other words, “blowing their nose” through the top of their heads. The spray, or blow, can often be seen from far away. But by the time you get there, it’ll be too late for a tissue…

Baleen: Some whales have teeth, others eat their food using what’s called baleen — kind of a giant strainer made of keratin, the same stuff that makes up our fingernails. The Baleen Whale has 600 baleen plates in its upper jaw, which let the food pass through while keeping the saltwater out (like you, whales can’t drink saltwater). They eat fish and tiny organisms called plankton. And a ton of it — literally. The bigger whales consume about a ton (2,000 lbs) of food a day!

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