The greatest of all ages. With their 180 tons of weight distributed over more than 30 m in length, the blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) are, in terms of mass, the largest living mammals. Primacy which also historically holds, except the gigantic Amphicoelias, an extinct sauropod dinosaur genus. Their heart, as big as a small car and just studied in detail, beats so hard that it would be audible from 3 km away. Until recently it was believed that their arteries were so wide as to allow a human being to swim through them. But the recent autopsy of the heart of a beached whale has denied this theory.
Belugas like music. Commonly known as "sea canaries" for the treble and musical vocalizations they use to communicate, belugas (Delphinapterus leucas), large white cetaceans common in cold seas, show - in captivity - a certain predilection for music and interaction with the man. On several occasions, being able to choose whether to hide in a hidden crevice or to approach a musician intent on playing a "serenade", they chose the latter option. Some specimens have even moved "in time", proving to hear the notes.
They can swallow as much water as their body weight. In particular, whales can ingest up to 480, 000 kilocalories in a single puff of krill, taking 90 times the energy used for diving. To regulate themselves, they use a richly innervated and grapefruit-like organ that is located at the junction of the two parts of the lower jaw. The excess water is then expelled through the baleen, the blades present in the mouth of some whales, which hold the krill.
Humpback whales also have "best friends". The female humpback whales form so solid friendship bonds that they resist oceanic distances, and become popular again after some time: Canadian scientists from the Mingan Island Cetacean Study group have discovered it after 16 years of observation. The friends - almost all females and generally of the same age - meet again every year after the season of mating and migration, recognizing among many specimens. Who establishes friendship ties is facilitated in hunting and tends to have more healthy puppies. Before the discovery, it was thought that these animals were not very sociable.
Sperm whales sleep standing up. Until recently, it was believed that the sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), like the dolphin, caused one cerebral hemisphere to rest at a time, remaining alert with half of the body in case of danger. But in 2013, a team of researchers from the University of St Andrew (UK) accidentally stumbled across a flock of motionless sperm whales in an upright position, with their heads occasionally surfacing. They were sleeping: the researchers' small boat passed with the engine off among the animals, without provoking reactions. Accidentally, in the retreat the scientists bumped against the animal: the group shook and soon dissipated. The naps usually last 12 minutes and happen, it is not known why, mainly between 18.00 and midnight.
The Arctic whale can live up to 200 years. Although most of the specimens live between the ages of 60 and 90, the presence of ancient weapon fragments found in the flesh of some Greenland whales (Balaena mysticetus) that escaped the attack of whalers suggests that these specimens can far exceed 100 years of life, even reaching 200. The analysis of the ocular tissue of some dead specimens seems to confirm this longevity: some have even advanced the hypothesis that these cetaceans also go through menopause, given the consistent presence of very large female specimens without pups beside .
Some know how to imitate the human voice. Emblematic is the case of NOC, the beluga of the National Marine Mammal Foundation of San Diego which has become famous for having reproduced in its vocalizations the typical sound patterns of a conversation between humans (listen to it here). His verse was so "faithful" that one of the trainers, hearing it, one day came out of the water, convinced that some colleague was talking to him from outside. Some studies showed that NOC, like other beluga imitators before him, produced those strange sounds by filling the airbags with an unusual pressure, far greater than that used for normal vocalizations.
Humpback songs are like "pop" hits. They spread, that is, with dynamics similar to those we observe on the "pieces of summer" that the radio passes. Scholars from the University of Queensland (Australia) have shown that, within the same humpback population, males tend - in the same period - to produce the same sounds (a melody comparable to a song) of mating. Over time, the tune changes becoming more and more catchy: the more successful it is, the easier it is to spread to neighboring humpback whales, perhaps mixing with previous songs.
Moby Dick really existed. Or rather, the novel published in 1851 by Herman Melville would seem to have been inspired by the stories of the unfortunate crew of the whaler Essex who, in 1820, was ousted from the ship by a sperm whale in defensive order, which overthrew the men in the middle of the South Pacific. Drifting for 90 days, the sailors turned to cannibalism to survive.
They adopt other animals (or things). In 2011, a group of sperm whales was observed taking care, on several occasions, of a bottlenose dolphin with a spinal malformation (in the photo), which had determined its departure from the rest of the group. In some cases, belugas in freedom have been observed treating wooden planks or caribou carcasses as if they were puppies.You might also like: Drones to catch the breath of whales The whale that swam in the river, millions of years ago The whale slaughter: 3 million in a century If the orcas speak the Delphinese The photographer shoots, the whales sink it The biggest of every age. With their 180 tons of weight distributed over more than 30 m in length, the blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) are, in terms of mass, the largest living mammals. Primacy which also historically holds, except the gigantic Amphicoelias, an extinct sauropod dinosaur genus. Their heart, as big as a small car and just studied in detail, beats so hard that it would be audible from 3 km away. Until recently it was believed that their arteries were so wide as to allow a human being to swim through them. But the recent autopsy of the heart of a beached whale has denied this theory.