Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thirteen Facts About Whales -- Many of Them Surprising


Thought much lately about whales? Didn't think so. You'll want to read on.


Whales are both majestic and mysterious. There’s a lot about them the average person, like me, doesn’t know. Today's guest, urban-fantasy author and self-proclaimed whale addict, Kendall Grey, has studied them intensively. She'll share 13 facts about these exquisite creatures.



1. Scientists believe whales evolved 55 million years ago. One of the earliest whale ancestors was Pakicetus, a wolf-like creature with hooves. Whales are remarkable in that their forebears left the ocean, evolv on land, then went back to the sea -- probably to avoid competition with land animals. Whales saw an open niche with plenty of food and took advantage of it.

2. Whales are mammals. This seems like a no-brainer, but many people think whales are fish. Despite the similarities in appearance, whales are genetically closer to humans than they are to fish. They're warm-blooded, have hair (not much, but some), give live birth, nurse their young, and breathe air with lungs.

3. They're ... big. Blue whales are the largest animals ever to live on this planet. Yes, bigger than any known dinosaurs. Blues can grow to over 100 feet in length. "Mid-sized" whales like humpbacks are about the size of a school bus (around 45 feet), and their babies are the size of a pick-up truck (12 to14 feet).

4. The really big ones eat really small stuff. Baleen whales like blues, humpbacks and fin whales generally are bigger than their toothy cousins, orcas, sperm, and pilot whales. Toothed whales hunt in "packs" (pods) and often go after larger animals (seals, giant squids or even other whales). Baleen whales eat small, schooling fish or krill. Keratin plates that hang from the upper jaw strain-and-trap-food when the whale opens wide for a big gulp.


5. Whales are intelligent. They have some of the same "brainy" parts of humans and advanced apes. They also use tools like "bubble nets" to catch fish.

6. Whales communicate. Toothed whales like dolphins, orcas, and sperm whales use echo-location to help them navigate and find prey. They also employ "clicks" to coordinate activities. Humpback males sing complex "songs" that repeat a pattern of sounds. All males in a single area sing the same song, and it evolves over the season. In other words, they improvise and "build" language, much as we do.

7. They're endangered. In 1986, the International Whaling Commission put an end to commercial whaling. Many populations had been hunted to the brink of extinction. While the ban helped, many whales still struggle. The North Atlantic right whale remains critically endangered. Their total population is estimated at just 400.

8. Man is a major predator. Despite the ban on commercial whaling, Japan, Iceland, Norway and a few aboriginal groups still hunt whales for food. Aside from humans, the only other predatory threats to most whales are sharks and orca whales.

9. Human-based activities threaten whales. Fishing gear entanglements, strikes by ships, pollution, ocean-noise (it confuses toothed-whales' sonar, leading to navigation problems that sometimes cause them to accidentally beach), and global-warming (sunburns,and depleted food sources) are contributors to whale deaths.

10. Whales are fast. Orcas can kick up to speeds of 30 miles per hour for short bursts. That's high speed in water. Fin whales, or finbacks, which grow up to 75 feet long, can go 25 miles an hour or more.

11. Whales can be identified. Researchers photograph humpbacks' unique fluke patterns and keep track of sightings in massive databases (the North Atlantic humpback database contains about 6,000 individual animals). Orcas are identified by their "saddle patches" (patterns behind those big dorsal fins). Right whales are differentiated by the callous-like patterns on their heads.

12. Many whales migrate. Baleen whales tend to move toward the poles in summer (for food-supply reasons) and toward the equator in winter where warmer water is conducive to breeding and birthing. While making their 3,000-plus mile migration, humpbacks go months without eating.

13. Whales may be some of the longest-lived animals on the planet. Scientists once discovered a bowhead whale with a 100-plus year-old harpoon embedded under its blubber. They believe the animal was more than 200 years old. Hundred year-old fin whales also have been found.

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Kendall and I hope you enjoyed learning about whales. They're a passion for her and she truly is a writer with heart. All of the profits from her JUST BREATHE trilogy will be donated to whale education.

Here’s the cover wording of the first book in the series, INHALE. "Strangers in reality, inseparable in dreams…"

And here's the plot line:

"After years of suffocating under her boss’s scrutiny, whale biologist Zoe Morgan finally lands a job as director of a tagging project in Hervey Bay, Australia. Success Down Under all but guarantees her the promotion of a lifetime, and Zoe won’t let anything—or anyone — stand in her way. Not the whale voices she suddenly hears in her head, not the ex- who won’t take ”no" for an answer, and especially not the gorgeous figment of her imagination who keeps saving her from the fiery hell of her dreams."

The male protagonist, Gavin Cassidy, hasn’t been called to help a human Wyldling in over a year, which is fine by him. Still blaming himself for the death of his partner, he keeps the guilt at bay by indulging in every excess his rock-star persona affords. That is, until he’s summoned to protect Zoe from hungry Fyre Elementals and learns his new charge is the key to restoring order in the dying Dreaming. He never expects to fall for the feisty Dr. Morgan … nor does he realize he may have to sacrifice the woman he loves to save an entire country.

My opinion: If you’re looking for an Urban Fantasy with heart, INHALE, is for you. The story’s a page-turner -- full of vivid scenes, evocative action, character struggle, sizzling sexuality and other-worldly imaginings.





33 comments:

  1. Fascinating post! And your book sounds great! :)

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  2. Thanks for hosting me at the Otherworld Diner today, Brenda! I could talk about whales for hours. If anyone has whale questions, feel free to post them here. I'll be checking in throughout the day. If I don't know the answers, I will find out!

    Kendall

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  3. Hi Kendall and Brenda! Great post today! I didn't know dolphins are considered whales. That's very cool. :) And Kendall, I'm finally buying your book today! And then I'm going to devour it.

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    1. Hey Erin! Thanks for stopping by and for your purchase. You are awesome!

      Yep, dolphins are cetaceans, just like whales. In fact, orcas (killer whales) are the largest dolphins in the world. They grow up to about 25-30 feet long, and the males can sport 6+ foot-long dorsal fins. Researchers have studied dolphins for decades and they're close to deciphering those clicks used to communicate. One researcher estimates they'll have dolphin "language" decoded within the next 5 years. EXCITING!

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  4. Great post, I learned some new things.

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  5. Very interesting information! I did not know whales lived to be so old. Good luck with your book!

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  6. Carolyn,
    Yep. I bet you'd like Inhale. :)

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  7. Kendall,
    Thanks for coming and sharing your knowledge and your fine writing with us.

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  8. Erin,
    I can't wait to talk about Inhale with you.

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  9. Jessabelluh,
    I'm glad you found the post instructive. I did too.

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  10. CountryDew,
    I'm with you. I didn't know whales lived that long either. Thanks for stopping by.

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  11. The whales & I have age in common. I'm feeling about 180 today. Don't call me Ishmael.

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    1. Oh no! Sometimes I feel the same way. On days like that, I try to sleep it off. HAHAHA! Thanks for stopping by. :-)

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  12. Carolyn, Jessabelluh, and CountryDew - glad you stopped by and thanks for the comments!

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  13. I didn't know they lived so long. They are very impressive.

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  14. I didn't realize they evolved on land and then went back to the sea but it makes sense. As smart as they are I'm glad they are not like humans who can be greedy and wreak havoc on the planet.

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    1. I'm with you, Colleen! We've really done a number on the whales. :-(

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  15. Interesting post! I loved learning more about whales.

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  16. I've heard they are really intelligent.


    Have a great Thursday!
    http://harrietandfriends.com/2012/05/13-reasons-to-love-mothers-day/

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  17. Ron,
    Too funny. I won't call you Ishmael. Thanks for stopping by.

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  18. AliceAudrey,
    Yeah, I think whales are amazing too.

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  19. colleen,
    You're right. I bet you'd enjoy Kendall's book. There are some humans who cause all sorts trouble and also those who strive to make the world a better place.

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  20. Rikki,
    Thanks. We appreciate your interest.

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  21. I am Harriet,
    Yeah, I heard that too. Thanks.

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  22. Though I did know some of these facts, it still made for fascinating reading. Would love to catch sight of one some day--should I ever make it to the ocean again.

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    1. I hope you make it, Heather. Seeing whales in person is SO worth it!

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  23. Heather,
    I'd like to go whale-watching some day too.

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  24. Great post. I love whales and have been privileged to see them in many different parts of the world.

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  25. Although I knew that whales were long-lived creatures, I had no clue that their longevity reached, and possibly spanned, the century mark! Thanks for sharing some genuinely interesting facts.

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  26. Shelley Munro,
    Wow, it's cool you've seen whales. I hope to see them someday.

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  27. Carleen,
    I learned something things about whales too. I appreciate you stopping by.

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  28. Kendall,
    Thank you so much for being a guest and sharing your knowledge, passion and prose with us.

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  29. Hi there, Great post, without a doubt number 7 is the biggest worry for whales. Number 10 is something I have experienced in a canoe beside a bowhead whale, a moment I shall not soon forget. Arctic bowhead whales are one of the most amazing animals I have had the opportunity to observe, and photograph. For anyone interested, I have posted some of my pictures, and stories, from my three week trip off Baffin Island, filming bowhead whales at: http://frametoframe.ca/destinations/arctic-expedition/photo-essay-search-arctic-bowhead-whales

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