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Is an orca (killer whale) a whale or a dolphin?

Is an orca (killer whale) a whale or a dolphin?

Image taken from an unmanned hexacopter at >100ft during a research collaboration between NOAA/SWFSC, SR3 and the Coastal Ocean Research Institute. Research authorized by NMFS permit #19091. It’s one of the hottest topics we see discussed online, so please geek out about whales with us for a minute as we dive into the answer: what…

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Pink dolphins

Amazon River dolphin (Boto)

There are two species of “pink” dolphins that are found in very different parts of the world. Pink Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin The Amazon River dolphin inhabits the murky waters of the Amazon rainforest and other rivers in the region. Adult Amazon River dolphins turn pink or pinkish-grey as they mature, with males being both bigger…

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What is an orca pod?

Orcas

Orcas are highly social creatures and at the very heart of this is the orca mother forming the maternal group or matriline. Beyond this is a series of extended groups called pods, clans and communities. A typical matriline consists of an older female or ‘matriarch’ and her male and female descendants. Adult sons will stay…

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What is a cetacean?

Cetacean is the collective noun used to describe all 90 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises. The word cetacean has its origins in Latin (Cetus) referring to a large sea creature and Greek (Ketos) meaning whale or sea monster. Having evolved around 50 million years ago, today they are separated into two distinct types -…

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Are whales mammals or fish?

Whales, dolphins and porpoises, are all mammals – just like us! All mammals share five characteristics: Mammals breathe air. Just like humans, whales and dolphins breathe oxygen out of the atmosphere. This means that they have nostrils (we call them blowholes) which connect to a pair of lungs. Whales and dolphins MUST come up to…

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How did whales evolve?

Looking at a whale’s body and biology, there are plenty of clues that their ancestors lived on land. They breathe air and nurse their young with their own milk, they also have paddle-shaped flippers which encase hand bones with five ‘fingers’. As embryos, whales have tiny back limbs which disappear before birth. Hippos are the…

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What are the differences between whales, dolphins and porpoises?

Collectively, whales, dolphins and porpoises are known as cetaceans. Cetacean species are divided into two groups. (1) Baleen whales – these are the “great whales” and as their name suggests they all have baleen plates that are used to filter their food (which consists of plankton and small species of fish). (2) Toothed whales (otherwise…

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What is baleen?

There are 14 species of baleen whale including the blue, bowhead, right, humpback, minke and grey whale. Baleen whales are generally larger than toothed whales except for the sperm whale which is very big and has teeth. Many baleen whales migrate annually, travelling long distances between cold water feeding areas and warm water breeding areas.…

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How long do dolphins live?

Bottlenose dolphin with calf

Dolphins can live for a very long time and females tend to live longer than males. Female bottlenose dolphins have been known to live for more than 60 years and dolphins up to 48 years old have given birth. The oldest known dolphin is a bottlenose dolphin named Nicklo by researchers studying dolphins in Sarasota…

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How do dolphins give birth?

Dolphin pregnancies last between 10 months (harbour porpoise) and 18 months (orcas) depending on the species. Bottlenose dolphin pregnancies are somewhere in the middle lasting about 12 months, a little longer than human pregnancies which last 9 months. Dolphins give birth to a single baby; the baby is usually born tail first (unlike most mammals)…

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