Marine mammals are animals that spend
the majority of their lives in or near the sea. Animals
like dolphins, whales, seals, manatees, sea otters and even
polar bears are considered marine mammals. Whales, dolphins,
and porpoises all belong to the same taxonomic order called
cetaceans. Cetaceans are truly remarkable animals ! They
are mammals which means they are warmblooded, they have
at least a few hairs on their bodies, and they nourish their
young with milk. Cetaceans spend their whole lives in water
and some live in family groups called “pods”.
Whales, dolphins and porpoises must breathe air just like
humans. However since cetaceans live in water, breathing
is a little more difficult for them than it is for us. Most
whales can hold their breath for prolonged periods of time.
To take a breath whales must swim to the surface and exhale
through their blowhole.This action has been dubbed spouting,
but is also called blowing. When a whale head sticks its
head straight up out of the water this behavior is called
spyhopping. Whales use their strong flukes to propel their
heads out the water so that the animal can look at his/her
Over 70 species of whales, dolphins
and porpoises populate the world’s oceans. To study
these cetaceans we categorize the species into two main
groups: baleen whales (or, mysticetes) and toothed whales
Baleen whales are very large, have paired blow holes, and
characteristic baleen plates that they use to filter food.
Toothed whales have (surprise) 1 to
65 teeth depending on the species and tend to be smaller
than baleen whales. Toothed whales have a single blowhole
and do not have baleen plates.
In the Mediterranean Sea there are 8 usual and 4 occasional
cetacean species (this means that they enter the Mediterranean
Sea through Gibraltar).