There are more than 80 known types of whales, or Cetacea, which are classified into two major groups: toothed whales and baleen whales. Although they are all known as whales, they have great physical and dietary differences between them as discussed below.

Baleen Whales

Baleen whales are normally larger compared to toothed whales. The blue whale is the biggest animal on earth and it belongs to the baleen whale suborder. Blue whales can grow up to 90 feet. The smallest baleen whale is the pygmy right whale which can grow up to 21 feet. They have a filtering system composed of thousands of baleen plates. They have smaller dorsal fins (some do not even have dorsal fins) compared to toothed whales. They tend to be solitary animals, moving alone or in small groups, though they seldom get together in groups to eat or to travel. Male baleen whales are usually smaller than females.

Some Examples of Baleen Whales

  • Right Whale
  • Grey Whale
  • Pygmy Right Whales
  • Blue Whale
  • Humpback Whale
  • Fin Whale

Sometimes baleen whales are referred to as mustached whales. Mainly, baleen is made up of keratin, a substance that is present in our hair and fingernails. They feed on small water animals, such as plankton, fish, copepods, amphipods and krill. They use baleen to sift food out of the water. A number of them get their food through swimming with their jaws wide open. Some open their mouths and drink plenty of water. They are differentiated by two blowholes. The blowholes may be closed by sturdy, muscular flaps that open just when the whale inhales.

Toothed Whales

There are approximately 65 different types of toothed whales. They are usually smaller compared to baleen whales, though there are some that are fairly large like the Baird’s beaked whale and the sperm whale. The sperm whale is longer than 13 metres and can grow up to 18 meters. All types of dolphins and porpoises belong to toothed whales. They are active predators and hunters. They find, hunt and then catch prey using their teeth. When they catch their prey, they swallow it whole. They feed on various species, such as fish, squid, sea lions, seals crabs, starfish and even other whales. Moreover, they have a stronger social structure compared to baleen whales, frequently gathering in pods.

Examples of Toothed Whales

  • Beluga Whale
  • Sperm Whale
  • Bottlenose Dolphin
  • Chinese River Dolphin
  • Amazon River Dolphin
  • Pilot Whales
  • Killer whales

Contrary to baleen whales, females toothed whales are usually smaller than males. They are differentiated by one blowhole. Toothed whales swim faster as compared to baleen whales. Toothed whale reproduction is fairly fast compared to baleen whale.

Toothed whales get their food by means of echolocation while Baleen whales lack the echolocation capability. Echolocation functions like a navigation system which may detect objects, like squid, in the water. Through its nasal passage, the whale sends signals, known as “ultrasounds”. These signals rebound or “echo” off prey, then come back to the whale, providing a lucid “sound-picture” of the prey’s size, form and location.

Dolphins are popular among humans and for good reasons. They are adorable, friendly and very smart. So you think you know everything about dolphins huh? You probably know already that they are mammals and not fish. But when we hear the word dolphins, the picture that usually comes to mind is that of the bottlenose dolphins that we see in movies and water parks. But the truth is, there are 36 species of dolphins.

There are types of dolphins that you probably didn’t even know were dolphins. What’s more amazing is that some of these dolphins have the word whale in their names and are commonly mistaken as being members of a completely different family of sea animals. Here, you will get to know more about these species of dolphins.

Killer Whales

You probably won’t believe it but orcas actually belong to the dolphin family and are actually among the 36 dolphin species. They can also be considered as the scariest, hence the nickname. Orcas are called killer whales because in the ocean, they are pretty much at the top of the food chain. They are so ferocious that they are known to routinely eat great white sharks which is one of man’s most feared sea creatures. But do killer whales kill humans? Well, they are not really considered a threat. There have been reports of killer whales in marine parks though who have killed or injured their handlers. Bonus fact: the scientific name of the killer whale is Orcinus orca which comes from the Orcus, the name of the Roman god of death.

Pilot Whales

Next to killer whales, pilot whales are the second largest species of dolphins. There are two types of pilot whales, the long-finned pilot whale and the short-finned pilot whale. The former lives in cold waters while the latter can be found in tropical and subtropical waters. Pilot whales, along with other large species of dolphins, are also known as blackfish. Like most species of dolphins, pilot whales are very social. An unusual trait of these species though is that their young remain in their mothers’ pods. Many pilot whales get stranded on beaches making them an easy prey among fishermen. There are several theories for this but no one can give a conclusive answer. Pilot whales are named as such because it is believed that their pods are “piloted” by a leader.

Melon-Headed Whales

Closely related to the pilot whale is the melon-headed whale and is also known as blackfish. Although widespread in the tropical waters around the world, this species of dolphin are rarely seen because they prefer to swim in deep waters. The melon-head whale got its name from the appearance of its head which is shaped like a rounded cone. The melon-head is another social animal and that they gather in large groups numbering to hundreds even thousands at a time. An interesting fact about this kind of dolphin is that it is a fast swimmer. Like other dolphins, it can also jump from the sea surface resulting to huge splashes of water.

Bottlenose Dolphin Facts

The bottlenose dolphin, like the one who played Flipper, is by far the most common species of dolphins and one of the most loved marine mammals, especially by children, thanks to their high intelligence and altruism and their beautiful, affectionate and gentle nature. The animal star of 1964 and 1995 TV series “Flipper”, as well as of the movie “Flipper” (1993) was a bottlenose dolphin. More precisely, the 1964 series featured 5 different female bottlenose dolphins, because females are generally less aggressive than males and easier and quicker to train. The 1993 film, a remake after the movie with the […]