MY FAVORITE WHALES, RANKED
I love whales.
- •Sperm WhaleOh my gosh, there is just so much to love. They make the loudest sound of any living creature, a clicking that helps them locate giant squid in the deep ocean. They can hold their breath for 90 minutes to dive as deep as 1000 meters. Their 15 lb brain is the largest in the animal kingdom. We have killed a lot of them for the spermaceti in their skull (which we don't entirely know the function of). And baby sperm whales are one of the cutest things on the planet.
- •Blue whaleThey are the largest creature that has EVER LIVED, including dinosaurs (the largest ever found was over 110 ft long). To eat, they gulp a volume of water equal to their enormous body weight and force it out of their mouth through their baleen, straining out yummy krill. Their throats expand like whoa. They are Awesome with a capital A.
- •NarwhalUnicorn of the sea! Their long single tusk is actually their left tooth! It grows out through their lip up to ten feet in length! It contains a ton of nerve endings that help them navigate arctic waters. They often have to migrate through regions where there are long stretches of unbroken ice and race toward the next open patch to breathe. Sometimes they suffocate.
- •Right WhalePoor right whales. Their name is said to come from early whalers calling them the "right" ones to hunt. They're slow, fat, and float when dead (this should be my ListApp bio). BUT their consolation prize is that they're super sexual beings (this too)! Males have the largest balls in the animal kingdom, with testes 10x bigger than the much larger blue whale (each weighing over a thousand lbs)! Females enjoy copulating with up to 20 males at a time as they gently stroke her with their fins.
- •Humpback WhaleThey're like the Beatles of whales. Of course I love them, but so does everybody. Only the males sing their famous songs, but it isn't exclusively courting behavior - they might just really like to sing! Or hum, rather. Whales within a large area sing the same song. Each population's song changes slowly over a period of years. They employ a heist-like cooperative strategy to catch fish in big swirling bubble nets. Their breaches are spectacular.
- •Bowhead WhaleI've always pictured bowheads as unamused Brits at a tedious dinner party. Their huge bowed mouth is the largest of any animal, and just radiating snark. They are shiny, smooth, and black. Their baleen is the longest of any whale at 3 meters, their blubber is the thickest, and they have two blowholes that spout a blow 20 ft high. The discovery of 19th century spear points embedded in their flesh triggered research that suggests they can live as long as 200 years!
- •Beluga WhaleThis was my childhood favorite, because of their pretty white color and being able to see them up close at the zoo. They have a curious, happy looking face, like a dolphin with a big bulgy forehead. Their skin turns yellow in the summer when it's time to shed it, and they'll eat almost anything "that can realistically fit in their mouth."
- •Gray WhaleOne of the few species that has come back from the brink of extinction and have been taken off the endangered list in the U.S. They are extremely friendly, and known to swim right up to boats and let ecstatic red hat society ladies kiss them on the head. Baby gray whales are always getting violently eaten in front of their mothers by a gang of killer whales in nature documentaries.
- •Pygmy and dwarf sperm whalesThe only whales that release a sort of pseudo-ink - like squids - to escape attackers.
- •Killer WhaleAn apex predator that's actually more closely related to dolphins than other whales. As a kid I'd get really mad when people said "killer whale" instead of orca, which I believed was their true, less-biased name. Both are used interchangeably. Don't keep them in a tank.
- •All the other whales