Busted: Myths About Whales You Believed To Be True

Busted: Myths About Whales You Believed To Be True
Learn the truth behind these myths about whales, Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Did you know whales are not hairless? What else have you missed out?

Sahana Iyer
November 16 , 2019
04 Min Read

It is an absolute delight to watch a whale traverse through deep waters. Ironically, these majestic and dangerous-looking creatures are some of the most social beings. However, there are many misconceptions associated with whales. Are they true or just a product of the rumour-mill and fast internet? Here the five most popular myths about whales and the truth behind them:

The Sound Of The Humpback Whales

As odd as it may sound, whale sounds are common background music for relaxation and sleeping. A “melody” of groans and screeches, these sounds began gaining popularity in the late 1960s. Humpback whales are particularly well-known to “sing” when they travel in pods. However, contrary to popular belief, not all humpback whales sing together. While all whales do make sounds, only male humpbacks follow a certain theme. Those that travel in the same area sing similar notes, evolving over time. Scientists are still unclear as to how whales sing without vocal chords or what these sounds are intended to communicate. Interestingly, when the studies began in the late 60s, many were skeptical of the outcome. However, the results were so fascinating that whale sounds even began being sold in music stores!

 A whale come up to the surface to breathe

For The Porpoise of Respiration

This is a misconception that comes along with the habitat of whales. Many people believe that whales can breathe underwater, however this assumption is false. While whales can hold their breath for astonishing periods of time, they require to respirate like any other mammal. They have nostrils on their heads, that are known as blowholes. It is through these blowholes that the creatures expel water and inhale oxygen. Muscles around the hole contract underwater and relax to take in air. Impressively, some whales can stay underwater for as long as 90 minutes without taking another breath!     

Not So Slick 

It often happens that one groups animals according to their habitat. In the same fashion, people often forget that a whale is a mammal. What might come as the real surprise is that these mammals, like any other also display hair at some point of their life. Young ones are born with hair, however they shed them soon after, typically over the course of a few days or weeks. Before they are born, they are known to have hair on their snouts or the sides of their rostum. While adults are identified by their smooth skin, there are still hair follicles that can be recognised on a completely grown whale. 

A killer whale technically belongs to the dolphin family

The Misplaced Whale 

The majesty of a killer whale is unparalleled amongst marine animals. While many may think that killer whales are… well, whales (since it’s in the name), they are technically not. Killer whales are actually are actually of the dolphin family. Under Odontoceti suborder, these creatures are of the Delphinidae or oceanic dolphin family. They are the largest dolphin species and also feast on various prey using different techniques to capture them. They are indeed a very intelligent species!    

Teeth Are Optional

Whales, while mostly very docile and social, can be intimidating due to their size and even their rarely dangerous demeanour. What may come as a surprise to many is that not all whales have teeth. Whales are generally categorised into two groups- toothed whales and baleen whales. Baleen whales do not have teeth. Instead, they have a comb-like fringe made of keratin in their mouths. This fringe helps a whale filter through their food. These creatures swallow water; unwanted material is pushed out and small fishes and other food are swallowed whole. Funnily enough, baleen whales are some of the biggest animals on the planet that eat some of the smallest!

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