Whale (origin Old English hwæl) is the common name for various marine mammals of the order Cetacea. The term whale sometimes refers to all cetaceans, but more often it excludes dolphins and porpoises, which belong to the suborder Odontoceti (toothed whales). This suborder also includes the sperm whale, killer whale, pilot whale, and beluga whale. The other Cetacean suborder, Mysticeti (baleen whales), comprises filter feeders that eat small organisms caught by straining seawater through a comblike structure found in the mouth called baleen. This suborder includes the blue whale, the humpback whale, the bowhead whale and the minke whale. All cetaceans have forelimbs modified as fins, a tail with horizontal flukes, and nasal openings (blowholes) on top of the head.

Whales range in size from the blue whale, the largest animal known to have ever existed at 30 m (98 ft) and 180 tonnes (180 long tons; 200 short tons), to various pygmy species, such as the pygmy sperm whale at 3.5 m (11 ft).

Whales collectively inhabit all the world's oceans and number in the millions, with annual population growth rate estimates for various species ranging from 3% to 13%. For centuries, whales have been hunted for meat and as a source of raw materials. By the middle of the 20th century, industrial whaling had left many species seriously endangered, leading to the end of whaling in all but a few countries.

Read more about Whale:  Taxonomy, Evolution, Anatomy

Other articles related to "whale":

Whaling In New Zealand
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Whale Wars - Critical Reception
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Whale Watching In Sydney
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Whale Meat - History
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Famous quotes containing the word whale:

    And one rose in a tent of sea and gave
    A darkening shudder; water fell away;
    The whale stood shining, and then sank in spray.
    Yvor Winters (1900–1968)

    In clear weather the laziest may look across the Bay as far as Plymouth at a glance, or over the Atlantic as far as human vision reaches, merely raising his eyelids; or if he is too lazy to look after all, he can hardly help hearing the ceaseless dash and roar of the breakers. The restless ocean may at any moment cast up a whale or a wrecked vessel at your feet. All the reporters in the world, the most rapid stenographers, could not report the news it brings.
    Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)