Whales are actually really cool. You might have heard otherwise from some classic literature. Nowadays, however, whales are actually known to be friendly (under the conditions that you educate yourself about their habitats and boundaries).
Here are 5 facts about whales that will change how you look at them!
1.Humpback whales have been found by researchers to exhibit altruism.
Studies indicate that humpbacks will frequently leave their hunt to rescue animals from orca packs.
This recurrent theme has led many scientists to wonder why this behavior exists as, since humpbacks only eat krill, they do not have any real benefit to rescuing other animals. Likewise, they are known to hide baby seals under their pectoral fins to protect them from predators. One woman, Nan Hauser, once caught a photo of a seal that was riding a humpback whale. Most likely, the whale was transporting the seal pup away from a potential predator in the vicinity.
One account of a marine researcher recanted the story of being rescued by a humpback whale that detected an overgrown tiger shark. A year later, when the researcher returned to the spot in which the encounter took place, the whale approached her and extended its pectoral fin.
2. Whales have incredibly long memories.
Be careful how you treat them. One of the theories as to why whales no longer attack humans is that hunting whales was outlawed decades ago and since then, many species of whale have taken notice, passing this information onto their kin. Just as Nan Hauser reported being remembered a year later by the whale that saved her, whales are known to be very keen on remembering the details of those they encounter and seem to now have an overall good impression of humans.
Blue whales, specifically, are rumored to have incredibly long memories… In fact, sometimes a blue whale’s memory can determine where they migrate.
3. The lifespan of a bowhead whale is still unclear and can potentially be up to 200 years.
After researches found a broken spear lodged in a bowhead whale that dated back centuries, speculation grew on the lifespan of a whale. Some theorize that this species can live anywhere up to several centuries, according to oceanservice.noaa.gov.
4. Humpbacks like to dive with people.
Firstly, even though humpbacks may try to be gentle with humans, don’t get too close to a whale. One swing of the tail or pectoral fin in the wrong direction can be fatal, as can accidentally being swallowed while whales are opening their mouths to eat krill or being in their line of action when they’re breaching.
That being said, humpbacks are pretty charismatic individuals. From poking their snouts above the water to be touched by passengers on a boat to diving with free-divers. Whales often enjoy the company of people. They have been known to “play” so-to-speak. This play can look like twisting and turning while diving as a way to interact with free-divers peacefully. Some divers have reported not being allowed to leave a pack of playful whales.
5. Whales combat climate change by pooping.
Whale excrement absorbs carbon dioxide while also fertilizing the ocean floor. In this way, whales are actually a necessity for the ocean’s ecosystem while also fighting against climate change. Many scientists believe that whales are essential for combatting greenhouse gases! If you ever see a whale excreting a neon liquid, know that the planet is in good hands.
6. Orcas are the apex predators and humpback whales have a lot to say about them.
Many have believed that sharks are the apex predators of the ocean, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, one encounter from an orca can send a shark shimmying out of the vicinity in absolute terror. Orcas are actually at the very top of the food chain and have been known to roam in packs and bully their food before devouring it. Humpbacks have a history of fighting back, rescuing their targets and using their tail fins to fight off packs of orcas mid-hunt.
7. Oddly enough, Orcas are dolphins.
Although another name for an orca is “Killer Whale”, orcas are actually closer to the dolphin family than they are to the whale family. Yes, they are a form of toothed whale, but are part of the dolphin line as well. If anything, they are more dolphin than whale. The name Killer Whale comes from the orcas’ lengthy history of hunting whales in packs. They earned this title from their history of ganging up on other species of whales as game–not because they are whales themselves.
8. A beluga whale’s squishy forehead is called a “melon”.
You read that right. Beluga whales have squishy foreheads called “melons” that they can change on-command. They change their forehead shapes by blowing and releasing air into their melons.