Whales

Which body part does a whale use to breathe?

And the answer: blowhole.    

Photo credit: MRAUST/ISTOCK/GETTY IMAGES PLUS. 

Because whales have lungs instead of gills, they breathe through their noses. A blowhole is at the top of the whale's head, and it serves as its nostril. When the whale comes up for air, the forcefully expelled air that comes out of the blowhole is in the form of water vapor. When it meets the cooler outside temperature, the vapor condenses and makes it appear like a spout of water.

As some of the largest animals on the planet (and mammals, no less), whales have a unique set of evolutionary qualities that have allowed them to survive and thrive over millenia. When it comes to anatomy, whales are broken down into two categories based on their physical features: toothed and baleen whales. Baleen whales have fibrous plates in their mouths that allow them to filter out large quantities of small marine life such as krill and crustaceans.

Interestingly, baleen whales have two blowholes instead of one due to their immense size. Using two blowholes to breathe in and out allows them to more efficiently access the oxygen they need to support their massive bodies while underwater. Meanwhile, toothed whales tend to be smaller, and filter their air through just one blowhole.

Toothed whales include species such as orca and narwhal, though massive sperm whales are also on the list. These whales tend to hunt for their food, and are equipped with evolutionary adaptations that allow for extended periods of holding their breath and/or deep-diving capabilities. Interestingly, the toothed whale suborder of mammals includes creatures that, really, aren't quite whales at all. Indeed– this diverse suborder of mammals includes over sixty species that differ widely in size, body design and behavior. From the sperm whale to the porpoise to the dolphin, toothed whales have found their home in many varying marine habitats and are linked through their shared ancestry.

To learn more about these fascinating giants of the sea, check out the World Wildlife Fund website.


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