Subject: Identification of whales during commercial whaling

S. Jones (
Tue, 10 Nov 1998 11:32:51 -0800 (PST)

On Tue, 10 Nov 1998, Orison Rollins wrote:

> How can or could whalers tell the difference among these three kinds of whales?
> a. The blue whale
> b. The right whale
> c. The sperm whale
Dear Orison-

Blue whales, right whales, and sperm whales all look very different and
have easily identifiable physical traits that whalers could have used to
distinguish among the three species.  Blue whales are the largest of the
baleen whales (80-100 ft) and have a blue/gray tint to their skin.  Right
whales have bulbous heads, no dorsal fin, and callosities on the top of
their heads, upper and lower lips, chin, and above the eyes.  Callosities
are rough growths whose pattern is unique to each animal.  Sperm whales
have huge, square heads, wrinkled skin, and a small underslung lower jaw.
Their heads are 25-35% the total length of their bodies.  Their blow at
sea is distinctive as it projects forward at an angle and to the left.
Their dorsal fin is small and triangular.  These features of each of the
whales mentioned above helped whalers identify species.  Also, certain
species are found in different areas.  So, depending upon the area the
hunt was taking place, the whalers would expect to see some species and
not others.

I hope this information helps you.