Whales share five common characteristics with other mammals. They're warm-blooded (maintain a high and constant body temperature independent of the surroundings), give live birth, nurse their young, breath air, and have hair.
As adults, whales rarely have any hair on their bodies. However, a young whale may sport sparse hair along its rostrum. A whale's smooth skin makes it sleek and fast. What does a whale's skin feel like? Some people say it feels like a wet innertube.
A whale breathes air through nostrils called a blowhole, located on top of its head. When it needs oxygen, a whale surfaces, thrusts its blowhole clear of the water, exhales (blows), and takes in a deep breath of air.
There are two different kinds of whales: toothed whales and baleen whales. Baleen and toothed whales differ in an umber of ways, including biology and behavior.
No. Animals commonly called dolphins and porpoises are simply small toothed whales.
Groups all over the world have rallied support to "save the whales." Some whale populations have recovered. Gray whales were hunted to near extinction in the 1800s, and again in the 1930s. Today, more than 21,000 gray whales inhabit the North Pacific, a population estimate that most experts consider at least as high as pre-whaling numbers.
Other whales are still endangered. The northern right whale is the most endangered baleen whale. Only about 500 remain. The baiji is one of the most endangered toothed whales. Only a few hundred remain.
Some of the reasons include habitat destruction and entanglement in fishing gear. Also, increased boat traffic in areas where whales migrate, feed, or breed could interfere with their behavior. Some boats run into whales, injuring or killing them. And in some places, people hunt some kinds of whales for food.
Scientists have found traces of toxic chemicals in the tissues of some river dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, and beluga whales. We don't know how these toxins affect marine mammals.
The United States government manages whales under the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act and the 1973 Endangered Species Act.
Because whales migrate, there are international agreements to protect them. The U.S. is a member of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). The IWC is responsible for whale conservation worldwide. The IWC is responsible for whale conservation worldwide. The IWC imposed a ban on commercial whaling in 1986.
The Cetacean Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Species Survival Commission has identified threatened whale populations in their Cetacean Action Plan. The IUCN publishes the Red List of Threatened Animals.
The Conservation on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) regulates international trade of certain animals and plants. CITES prohibits all trade of whale products.
The results of research done in the wild and at marine zoological parks enhances our understanding of whales and how they interrelate with humans and the marine environment. This knowledge, together with education and increased public awareness, will help conserve wild populations of whales.
Help. Whales need someone.
Here's how you can help:
SeaWorld/Busch Gardens Animal Information Database
www.seaworld.org / www.buschgardens.org
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