Real Whales are not the Same as Cartoon Whales

Reading my news feeds this morning while eating breakfast, I came across Gizmodo’s repost of the todayIfoundout.com article “Whales Don’t Spray Water Out of Their Blowholes Nor are Their Throats and Blowhole Connected.”  I have to admit that my first reaction was “you mean people don’t already know that?”  But in fairness, not everyone spent a third of their life on or near Puget Sound, or is married to someone who grew up living on an island. Something everyone should know or not, there were a number of bits of really cool whale trivia:

  • When a whale inhales, it flexes a muscle that opens its blowhole.  They relax the muscle to close the blowhole before diving.
  • The spray when a whale surfaces is a mixture of condensation of water vapor from warm lungs in the cool air and mucus.
  • Baleen whales general have two blowholes (like nostrils), while toothed whales general only have one.
  • A blue whale’s lung capacity is 5000 liters (author note: which is 833 times larger than an adult human’s 6 liters.  When you add efficiency of use (whales are supposed to use something like 90% of the oxygen that enters their lungs, while humans use only about 15%.), a blue whale has very close to 5000 times the available oxygen in a single breath.  If we assume an average mass of 150 metric tons (150000 kg) for a blue whale and an average mass of 70 kg for an adult human, this gives the blue whale 33.3 mL of usable oxygen capacity for each kg of body mass per breath compared to 12.8 mL that an average human has per kg of body mass.  A blue whale, then has 2.59 times more available oxygen per kg of body mass per breath than a human.  Wow!)
  • Humpback whales can sneeze air at over 300 mph.
  • Because a whale’s trachea and esophagus are not connected, it’s next to impossible for it to choke on food.
  • Whales allow one half of the brain to sleep at a time instead of falling fully asleep. This lets them rest rest while still able to surface when they need air.

I can’t actually vouch for the truthfulness of any of the above, not being a whale biologist, but it is pretty interesting bits of trivia.

todayIfoundout.com via gizomodo

Image Credit: Creative Commons Image posted to Flickr on June 11, 2013 by Mike Baird at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikebaird/9022303682/