Types of Whales

There are so many different types of whales!

When I first leaned how many different types of whales there are, I was very surprised! I knew about Gray Whales, and I had heard of Humpback Whales, Sperm Whales and Blue Whales, but that was about it. I also didn't know that Dolphins are a kind of whale! Can you believe there are 82 different kinds of whales?

The largest creature on the earth is a whale. There are whales with a tusk that can grow up to 10 feet long! There are white whales that live under the polar ice. There are even pink dolphins!

Keep reading to learn more about these amazing animals!

Whales Educational Poster

Buy This at Allposters.com

The world's 82 types of whales are mainly divided into two groups deriving from their food and eating habits, and consequently, their anatomy.
There are Baleen Whales and Toothed Whales. I have written a short introduction to each family and a list of species in that family. If you want to read more about a particular family or species, just click on the link! Have fun learning!

Baleen Whale Species - Mysticeti

"Right Whale Rises to the Water's Surface Exposing its Baleen"
Right Whale Rises to the Water's Surface Exposing its Baleen
Poster by AllPosters. Click on thumbnail to buy

Baleen Whales are named after the massive baleen that they have in their mouths. It helps them filter their food from the water.
Baleen Whales are typically very large animals, much larger than the Toothed Whales. The Blue Whale - the largest animal that has ever lived on the Earth belongs to the Rorqual family.The other three families are Right Whales, Pygmy Right Whales and Gray Whales.

                        Humpback Whale...
                                                     Paul Souders
                                         Buy This at Allposters.com

Humpback Whale Feeding in Frederick Sound in Alaska
Rorquals are large whales with large heads, baleens, chest and throat furrows, hence the name rorquals, which means "furrow whale" or "tube whale" in Norwegian.
They feed by opening their huge jaws as they swim along. As their throat grooves expand, they are able to hold a massive amount of water in their mouth.Then, when they close their mouth, the water is seived through the baleen plates leaving lots of fish and zooplankton trapped inside.
The Rorqual family includes the Humpback Whale, Blue Whale, Fin whale, Sei Whale, Minke, and Bryde's Whale.

Right Whales

                    Southern Right Whale in Waters Off the Auckland Islands
                                                      Brian J. Skerry
                                           Buy This at Allposters.com

Southern Right Whale in Waters Off the Auckland IslandsThe four species of Right Whales are the rarest of the large baleen whales and belong to the family Balaenidae. Right Whales include Southern Right Whales, North Atlantic Right Whales , North Pacific Right Whales and Bowhead Whales. They all live in the temperate northern or southern coastal waters and are identified by their huge heads which make up about one third of their massive body size.

They are
among the largest whales in the world. They can grow to 50 feet and 70 tons!

Pygmy Right Whales

            "Right Whale Calf Swims Next to His Mother
                   near a Pygmy Right Whale"

Right Whale Calf Swims Next to His Mother Near a Pygmy Right Whale
Poster by AllPosters. Click on thumbnail to buy

Pygmy Right Whales are small whales that are only found in the Southern hemisphere, along the coasts of the southern tip of South America, South Africa, southern coast of Australia and all coasts of New Zealand.
Like Gray Whales, they all belong to one species. The are similar to Right Whales, but they are smaller, have a smaller head compared to the body size, and have a dorsal fin which Right Whales lack.

Gray Whales

    "Grey Whale Surfacing to Exhale and Breathe"
Gray Whale Surfacing to Exhale and Breathe
Poster by AllPosters. Click on thumbnail to buy

The "group" of Gray Whales is represented by a single species. Gray Whales differ too much from other whales to fit into any other groups. The main difference is that while most other baleen whales filter feed in the water, Gray Whales go down to the bottom and plog the sea floor. They filter shellfish and other marine animals from the ocean bottom mud. But there are other differences too, such as the length of gestation period.

Toothed Whale Species - Odontoceti

  "Killer Whale, Orcinus, Orca Portrait"

Killer Whale, Orcinus Orca Portrait
Poster by AllPosters. Click on
thumbnail to buy

Toothed Whales are active hunters and meat eaters. They get their food by chasing and catching fish and larger animals like seals and sea lions. Being active hunters, they need to move fast and their bodies are therefore much smaller than the filter feeders above.

The whales in this group are commonly known as dolphins, even though some of them, such as Killer Whales, still bear the common name "whale". The different families of toothed whales include Beaked Whales, Sperm Whales, Narwhals and Belugas,
Porpoises, Oceanic Dolphins and, River Dolphins.

Beaked Whales
A Beaked Whale Swimming in the Clear Waters of the Hawaiian Islands
Poster by AllPosters. Click on thumbnail to buy

Beaked Whales are an interesting group of at least 21 species of whales. Many of which have been discovered recently and many are likely to still be discovered! This is the second largest group of cetaceans after dolphins.

This extensive family includes

Andrews', Arnoux'sBaird's Blainville's, Gervais',
Cuvier's, Hectors, Hubbs', Longman's,
Northern  Bottlenose Whale, Perrin'sPygmyShepherd's, Southern Bottlenose Whale, Sowerby's, Spade, Stejneger's, Strap-toothed Whale, and True's.
Wow! That was a mouthful!

Sperm Whales

             "Ripples Reflect off the Back of a Sperm Whale"
Ripples Reflect off the Back of a Sperm Whale
Poster by AllPosters. Click on thumbnail to buy

Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus) is the largest toothed whale.
Even though it is smaller than the largest baleen whales, it matches the size of most Baleen Whales and is larger than many of them.
This is the whale referred to in "Moby Dick!"

Dwarf (Kogia sima) and Pygmy Sperm Whales (Kogia breviceps) on the other hand are some of the smallest toothed whales.


  "Narwhals Come up in Seal Holes and Rotten Ice to Catch a Breath"
Narwhals come up in seal holes and rotten ice to catch a breath
Poster by AllPosters. Click on thumbnail to buy

Narwhals and Belugas are two different species belonging to two different genus but the same family.

Both are toothed and live in Arctic waters.

Belugas are also known as White Dolphins and Narwhals are known for the long tusk that males have.

Both lack a dorsal fin, possibly because they often swim under ice.


                                                           Solvin Zankl
                                               Buy This at Allposters.com

                                                       Harbor Porpoises
      Harbor Porpoises (Phocoena Phocoena) Swimming, Fjord and Baelt, Denmark

Porpoises are also a type of toothed whale. They are not Dolphins, but belong to another genus- Phocaena. They are relatively small, with a slightly developed dorsal fin and a short snout. The Common Porpoise, which only grows to four to six feet is found in almost all parts of the world. Other species include Dalls Porpoise (across north Pacific), Brumeisters Porpoise (along the coasts of South America), Spectacled Porpoise (Atlantic waters), Vaquita (Baja California), Finless Porpoise (along the coasts of Asia), and Harbor Porpoise (coastal areas of north Pacific and north Atlantic).

Oceanic Dolphins

                     Atlantic Spotted Dolphin, Bahamas
Atlantic Spotted Dolphin, Bahamas
Poster by AllPosters. Click on thumbnail to buy
This is a huge group! I have written pages about a few of these species.
The group of Oceanic Dolphins include Bottlenose, Spinner, Spotted, Striped, Clymene, Common, Frasers, White-sided, White-beaked, Hourglass, Peales, Dusky, Commersons, Chilean, Heavisides, Hectors, Rough-toothed, Rissos, Irrawaddy, Australian Snubfin and Right Whale Dolphin. There is also Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Humpback Dolphins, Tucuxi, and some species called whales such as Melon-Headed, Pilot and Killer Whales (including Orca, False Killer Whale and Pygmy Killer Whale)

River Dolphins

              Pink River Dolphin
Amazon River Dolphin, Pink River Dolphin or Boto Rio Negro, Brazil
Poster by AllPosters. Click on
thumbnail to buy

River Dolphins live in inland rivers (freshwater), or, in one case, in coastal rivers and river mouths (estuarine waters) in Asia and South America.

There are only five living species of river dolphins. They include South Asian River Dolphin, Boto or Amazon River Dolphin (the most famous, also known as Pink Dolphin), Araguaian, Bolivian and La Plata.

The Baiji, aka Chinese Dolphin, aka Yangtze River Dolphin, was declared extinct in December 2006.

Go here for a
List of Whale Species

Custom Search



What's New

Whale News!

About Us

About Using Content

You Are Secure!

[?] Subscribe To This Site

follow us in feedly
Add to My Yahoo!
Add to My MSN
Subscribe with Bloglines

Bookmark and Share