A. Order Cetacea.
The scientific order Cetacea includes all whales. This large order is further divided into three suborders: the toothed whales, or Odontoceti (beluga whales, killer whales, dolphins, and porpoises), the baleen whales, or Mysticeti (fin whales, gray whales, and right whales), and the Archaeoceti (fossil whales, now extinct).
B. Family Monodontidae.
The only other member of this whale family is the narwhal, another arctic species.
C.Genus, species Delphinapterus leucas
1.The genus name, Delphinapterus, means "dolphin without a fin." The species name,leucas, means "white." The common name beluga is derived from the Russian word belukha, which means "white" (Leatherwood and Reeves, 1983).
2.Other common names for the beluga include "white whale" and "belukha." They are also nicknamed "sea canaries" because of their vocalizations.
D. Fossil record.
1. Scientists believe that early whales arose 55 to 60 million years ago from (now extinct) ancient land mammals that ventured back into the sea.
2. Representatives from the modern family Monodontidae first appear in the fossil record 9 to 10 million years ago in the eastern North Pacific (Barnes, 1977).
Habitat and Distribution
1996 Sea World, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.