Subject: Killer whales, behavior and evolution

Tori (
Fri, 30 May 1997 22:31:13 -1000

We are Room 14 at Center School, Hopkinton, Ma and we are in second
grade.  We made a killer whale and we did research on killer whales.  We
still have some questions that were not answered when we were
researching.  Here are our questions.

1.  How did whales evolve?

2.  Describe how you train whales.

3.  How do whales make those big jumps?

Room 14

Aloha Room 14,

I am curious about the killer whale you made. We once made a life size
humpback whale out of plastic that was similair to trash liners. It
was cool, a fan kept it inflated and we could fit whole classrooms  of
kids inside. Was yours like this?

1) How whales evolved. Like all earthly life forms they originally came
from the water. They then came onto land. Some scientists believe that the
last form they had before they went back into the water was something
between a wolf and a cow. They had a wolf type head and fangs with a
cow-like hoofed body. It has been proposed that the animal that remained
on land is an ancestor of the cow. The animal that returned to the water
lost all but a miniature part of their legs, and grew a big muscular tail
instead. Their nostrils moved to the top of their heads to make breathing
while swimming easier. In the case of the humpbacks, their hands grew into
long flippers, other whales have shorter flippers. They lost most of their
hair, especially as adults. Their bones became much lighter so they can
float easier. In fact their whole body evolved to become supported by
water. This is why beached whales cannot remain beached for very long
without dire consequences. The weight of their body, without being
supported by water, will crush their internal organs.
I found it interesting that once when I was giving a whale presentation to
a kindergarten class, we played whale songs on a tape recorder. A young
girl laughed and asked why the whales sounded like cows. However, this
connection between whales and cows is not widely accepted. The other facts
are. If you would like some more, or this does not quite answer what you
were curious about, please let me know. There is quite a bit more that is

2) I must start this by saying that whales are intelligent animals. Like
any animal (including humans) they can be trained, well at least we know
this for the smaller whales such as dolphins, pilot and killer whales. The
larger whales, would not do well at all in captivity. I am sad to see any
whale in captivity, but that is not your question and is a whole other
issue. These smaller whales are usually trained by giving rewards for the
desired behavior. Sea Life Park, here in Hawai'i, actually gives classes
in how to train dolphins to visitors and locals alike. I am very lucky
that I can see dolphins, whales, turtles, occasional monk seals,
far-flying seabirds, reef fish, sea urchins and much other marine life in
their natural habitat about whenever I choose. What can you see where you
live? Even if you live in the city, you must have interesting insects or
plants to see. Here, I miss land animals such as squirrels, mountain
lions, foxes, porcupines, beavers. We don't have any of these.

3) How do whales make those big jumps. Pretty much the same way you would 
make a big jump. You would either run really fast or squat way down to
build up enough momentum to carry you through your jump. The whales,
having lost their legs, now use that big muscular tail to build up speed
while swimming under water. They swim super fast, break the water, and
then spin, flip, leap, turn or whatever, depending on what kind of whale they
are (by the way dolphins are whales too, small whales). Try it yourselves.
You are whales, stand up and take a deep breath. Hold your breath and
squat down. Look around you at the ocean life, what do you see, your
whale mother? Fish, seaweed, maybe a shark? From your squat, jump for the
surface, making a blow as you come up, use your arms to show what your
blow looks like. Does it feel wonderful to be a whale?