From: Phil Clapham (phillip.clapham@noaa.gov)
Date: Mon Jan 22 2001 - 09:41:56 EST

> 1) Are any species of whales extinct?
There are lots of extinct whales from prehistoric times, but you
probably mean whales that were around at the time people started hunting
them. In this case, the only whale that is extinct is the Atlantic gray
whale, and we don't really know whether that was a separate species from
the Pacific gray. Atlantic grays were still around about 300 years ago,
and it's not entirely clear whether they were wiped out by mediaeval
whaling or became extinct naturally (or a combination of the two).

> 2 )Are any sharks part of the whale family?
Nope - sharks are fish, whales are mammals. They're very different.

> 3) Are any species of whales in danger of extiction?
Yes, these: most blue whale populations; eastern bowhead whales, western
North Pacific gray whales, and all populations of the North Atlantic and
North Pacific right whale.

> 4) Do any whales besides the humpbacks sing?
Song is any series of sounds repeated in a pattern, and songs are sung
by lots of different animals from crickets to birds. Other whales known
to make patterned sounds (= song) are fin whales (probably) and bowhead
whales. But neither are as complex as the humpback song.

> 5) Why are whales gentle in captivity while more
> dangerous in its natural habitat?
I'm not sure they are. Killer whales in captivity have been responsible
for injuring or killing several people. And whales really aren't
dangerous in the wild.

 6) Why do baleen whales have 2 blowholes while toothed
 whales have 1?
That's not really clear and it may come from their evolution (they may
have evolved from different animals, though most people think they

> 7) How does the narwhal use its tusk?
Probably mostly for fighting; it is almost always males that have tusks,
though tusked females are seen very rarely.

> 8) Why are orcas nicknamed"killer whale when there is
> no proof that orcas have ever killed a human?
Because they are fearsome predators that kill other animals like seals,
penguins, porpoises or even whales (although some killer whales eat only

> 9) Can we do anything to take whales of the endangered
> species list?
Yes, maybe. Protecting them from human problems like entanglements in
fishing gear and collisions with ships would give them a much better
chance of recovery.

Phil Clapham

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