Whales are large ocean-dwelling mammals ranging in size from the 8.5 foot dwarf sperm whale to the 98 foot blue whale, which is the largest creature to have ever lived. Their closest living relatives are hippopotamuses, but they split from them about 40 million years ago and since have become so adapted to sea life that they are unable to survive on land. Whales are warm-blooded and have a layer of blubber to protect themselves from the cold temperatures of the oceans, which they used to be hunted for. Though required to breathe air, some whales can spend much time underwater, with some species capable of being underwater for 90 minutes before needing air. Whales communicate through various vocalizations, with the most well-known being the long drawn out songs of the humpback whale.

What do whales eat?

A whale’s diet depends on their size, social structure, habitat, species, and type (baleen or toothed). Their diet can range from fish, shrimp, larvae, plankton, crabs, krill, and squid to sea lions, walruses, seals, sharks, seabirds, and even other whales.

How long do whales live?

The lifespan of a whale is determined by its habitat, geography, diet, lifestyle, level of endangerment, and species. For example, the Sperm whale has an average lifespan of 60 to 80 years while the Dwarf sperm whale has an average lifespan of 20 to 25 years.

How long can whales hold their breath?

Whales are able to hold their breath for extended periods of time. A Sperm whale can generally hold their breath for about 90 minutes underwater. Other whales can typically hold their breath underwater for an average of 20 minutes to 1 hour.

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Whales

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Blue Whale
Size comparison drawing of a Blue Whale compared to a person with measurements for overall length

Blue Whales are the largest known animal in the world; growing up to 98 feet (30 meters) and weighing up to 173 tons (157,000 kgs). They can be found living in the North Atlantic, North Pacific and parts of the Southern Hemisphere. Just like their name, Blue Whales have a long-tapered body and have a bluish-grey dorsal. Blue whales don’t have teeth, but instead have large baleen which help separate sea water from krill after they swallow. After separation, the water is shot out their blowhole when they come up from water.

The typical Blue Whale has an overall height of 13’-16’ (3.96-4.88 m) and body length of 82’-105’ (25-32 m). An average Blue Whale weighs between 55-165 tons (50-150 metric tons) and has a typical lifespan of 80-90 years.

Illustrations of Blue Whales seen in various positions from the top, front and breaching
Blue Whales are the largest known animal in the world; growing up to 98 feet (30 meters) and weighing up to 173 tons (157,000 kgs). Just like their name, Blue Whales have a long-tapered body and have a bluish-grey dorsal. Blue whales don’t have teeth, but instead have large baleen systems.

The typical Blue Whale has an overall height of 13’-16’ (3.96-4.88 m) and body length of 82’-105’ (25-32 m). An average Blue Whale weighs between 55-165 tons (50-150 metric tons) and has a typical lifespan of 80-90 years.

Illustrations of Blue Whales seen in various positions from the top, front and breaching
Blue Whale
Height:
13’-16’ | 3.96-4.88 m
Width:
Length:
82’-105’ | 25-32 m
Depth:
Weight:
55-165 tons | 50-150 metric tons
Area:
Scientific Name
Balaenoptera musculus
Lifespan
80-90 years

Drawings include:
Blue Whale side elevation, front, top, breaching

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Humpback Whale
Dimensioned side elevation drawing of a Humpback Whale with measured length and a scuba diver for scale

Humpback whales are one of the largest mammals in the ocean growing up to 16 meters (52 feet) and weighing up to 30 tons. Their name “Humpback” comes from the shape of their dorsal (back) fin and the way it looks when its diving in the water. Humpback whales can be found in all the oceans around the world. They like to tropical waters and subtropics to give birth. Humpback whales aren’t very social and usually live alone, in rare cases, they are in a small group of 2 or 3 other whales to migrate or feed.

The typical Humpback Whale has an overall height of 8’-9’8” (2.44-2.97 m) and body length of 43’-52’ (13-16 m). An average Humpback Whale weighs between 27.5-33 tons (25-30 metric tons) and has a typical lifespan of 45-100 years.

Series of front, top, and breaching drawings of a Humpback Whale
Humpback whales are one of the largest mammals in the ocean growing up to 16 meters (52 feet) and weighing up to 30 tons. “Humpback” comes from the shape of their dorsal (back) fin and the way it looks when its diving in the water. Humpback whales can be found in all the oceans around the world.

The typical Humpback Whale has an overall height of 8’-9’8” (2.44-2.97 m) and body length of 43’-52’ (13-16 m). An average Humpback Whale weighs between 27.5-33 tons (25-30 metric tons) and has a typical lifespan of 45-100 years.

Series of front, top, and breaching drawings of a Humpback Whale
Humpback Whale
Height:
8’-9’8” | 2.44-2.97 m
Width:
Length:
43’-52’ | 13-16 m
Depth:
Weight:
27.5-33 tons | 25-30 metric tons
Area:
Scientific Name
Megaptera novaeangliae
Lifespan
45-100 years

Drawings include:
Humpback Whale side elevation, front, top, breaching

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Beluga Whale
Dimensioned size comparison diagram of a Beluga Whale with a scuba diver for scale

Beluga Whales are a species of whale known for their white color and vocal characteristics. Also known as the “sea canaries”, Beluga Whales are born grey and don’t get their whole color until 7-8 years. Beluga Whales are known for living in their arctic environment and weaving around icebergs from their keen hearing. Their live expectancy is on average 30 years, but they can live twice that if they aren’t hunted by polar bears or humans. Beluga whales are one of the most social animals in the sea and are often in groups (pods) whenever they travel.

The typical Beluga Whale has an overall height of 2’8”-4’2” (81-127 cm) and body length of 13’-20’ (4-6.1 m). An average Beluga Whale weighs between 2,000-3,000 lb (910-1,360 kg) and has a typical lifespan of 35-50 years.

Drawings of a Beluga Whale viewed from the front, top, and bottom elevations
Beluga Whales are a species of whale known for their white color and vocal characteristics. Also known as the “sea canaries”, Beluga Whales are born grey and don’t get their whole color until 7-8 years. Beluga whales are one of the most social animals in the sea and travel in groups (pods).

The typical Beluga Whale has an overall height of 2’8”-4’2” (81-127 cm) and body length of 13’-20’ (4-6.1 m). An average Beluga Whale weighs between 2,000-3,000 lb (910-1,360 kg) and has a typical lifespan of 35-50 years.

Drawings of a Beluga Whale viewed from the front, top, and bottom elevations
Beluga Whale
Height:
2’8”-4’2” | 81-127 cm
Width:
Length:
13’-20’ | 4-6.1 m
Depth:
Weight:
2,000-3,000 lb | 910-1,360 kg
Area:
Scientific Name
Delphinapterus leucas
Lifespan
35-50 years

Drawings include:
Beluga Whale side elevation, front, top, bottom

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Sperm Whale
Side elevation illustration of a Sperm Whale with dimensions for overall length and a scuba diver for scale

A Sperm Whale is a predator and is the largest toothed whale in the oceans. Sperm whales can live up to 60 years and baby whales (calves) are raised with their mothers a quarter of their life. The name sperm whale comes from the whaling industry that hunted them for oil lamps, lubricants, and candles. The sperm whale has a unique look characterized by its block-shaped head and its distinct blowhole. Sperm whales’ prey off squid and octopus. Sperm whales can weigh in over 40 tons and have a length of 50 feet (15 m), making it one of the biggest sea animals.

The typical Sperm Whale has an overall height of 6’9”-11’ (2.06-3.35 m) and body length of 39’-62’ (12-19 m). An average Sperm Whale weighs between 38.5-65 tons (35-59 metric tons) and has a typical lifespan of 60-70 years.

Pair of top and bottom drawings of a Sperm Whale
The Sperm Whale is the largest toothed whale in the oceans. Sperm whales can live up to 60 years and baby whales (calves) are raised with their mothers a quarter of their life. The name sperm whale comes from the whaling industry that hunted them for oil lamps, lubricants, and candles.

The typical Sperm Whale has an overall height of 6’9”-11’ (2.06-3.35 m) and body length of 39’-62’ (12-19 m). An average Sperm Whale weighs between 38.5-65 tons (35-59 metric tons) and has a typical lifespan of 60-70 years.

Pair of top and bottom drawings of a Sperm Whale
Sperm Whale
Height:
6’9”-11’ | 2.06-3.35 m
Width:
Length:
39’-62’ | 12-19 m
Depth:
Weight:
38.5-65 tons | 35-59 metric tons
Area:
Scientific Name
Physeter macrocephalus
Lifespan
60-70 years

Drawings include:
Sperm Whale side elevation, top, bottom

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