Cetaceans

Killer Whale: Orca

Killer whales ( Orcinus orca ) are master hunters, using speed, camouflage, and a variety of techniques to capture their prey. See how a different predator - the great white shark - finds its...

Evolution of Whales Animation

Whales have existed for million of years. Watch this animation, from the Sant Ocean Hall , to see how they evolved from land-dwellers to the animals we know today. Discover more about whale evolution...

Phoenix the North Atlantic Right Whale Video

Researchers frequently track North Atlantic right whales from ships or from the air. This video of Phoenix (left) was captured in March 2009 on George’s Shoal, east of Chatham, Mass. Learn more about Phoenix...
A right whale breaches, lifting its huge body out of the water.

North Atlantic Right Whale

Stretching up to 16.8 meters (55 feet) long and weighing up to 62 tons (70 tons), the North Atlantic right whale is one of the world’s largest animals—and one of the most endangered whales...
a bowhead whale and her calf, seen from above

Bowhead Whale: One Species at a Time

In the episode of One Species at a Time , writer Karen Romano Young takes an icebreaker to Barrow, Alaska, to join in the festival of Naluqatak and learn about the intimate relationship between...
Smithsonian Scientists Dig a Trench Around a squalodontid Skull

Expedition to Excavate a Fossil Whale

The first thing the researchers did when they arrived on site was outline the general excavation area and take careful measurements of exposed fossils. Next, they applied acrylic glue to any exposed bone to...
Smithsonian researchers eat a meal in preparation for a fossil excavation

A Squalodontid Success

On a beach in Piña, Panama the tide is rolling out. Faint outlines of skeletal remains rise above the sand. Smithsonian scientists Nicholas Pyenson and Aaron O'Dea along with a team of students descend...
Offshore Peru, during the Eocene (~56-34 million years ago), showing two archaeocetes (ancient whales): Ocucajea picklingi and Supayacetus muizon.

New Archaeocetes from Peru Are the Oldest Fossil Whales from South America

Offshore Peru, during the Eocene (~56-34 million years ago), showing two archaeocetes (ancient whales): Ocucajea picklingi (above) and Supayacetus muizoni (below). Credit: Carl Buell, http://carlbuell.com The evolution of whales represents one of the great...

Moby Dick's Boom Box: Sound Production in Sperm Whales

Dr. Stefan Huggenberger from the University of Cologne explains sound production in sperm whales in "Moby Dick's Boom Box: Nasal Complex of Sperm Whales," a presentation at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History...
An illustration of a recently discovered species of Monodontid, Bohaskaia monodontoides, and its beluga and narwhale relatives

Smithsonian Scientists Describe a 'New' Fossil Whale

A reconstruction of a new fossil beluga relative, Bohaskaia monodontoides , described by Smithsonian scientists, is pictured in the foreground. Its living relatives, the beluga and narwhal, are illustrated left to right in the...
Nick Pyenson points to a skull and skeleton of a fossil whale.

Excavating a "toothed" baleen whale from Vancouver Island

Nick Pyenson, the Smithsonian's curator of fossil marine mammals, points to the skull and skeleton of a 23-25 million year old fossil "toothed" mysticete whale. Credit: NDP and J. A. Goldbogen/SI The whales that...
A researcher holds an arm bone from a "toothed" mysticete whale from Vancouver Island.

Dispatches from the Field: Treacherous stream crossings and a new fossil find

Nick Pyenson, curator of fossil marine mammals at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, holds an arm bone from a "toothed" mysticete from Vancouver Island. Credit: J. A. Goldbogen Editor's note: Read Nick's...

Whale fossils on the mainland, and into a CT scanner

Gabor Szathmary secures one of the plaster jackets containing a fossil "toothed" mysticete that was excavated on Vancouver Island. After a few long days of hard work on the island, we were finally able...
A 3-D reconstruction of the skull of a fin whale fetus.

Keeping An Ear Out For Whale Evolution

The yellow features in this 3-D reconstruction of a fin whale fetal skull represent the early developmental stages of ear bones, characteristics that are extremely rare, fragile and nearly impossible to study via traditional...

Did Whale Evolution Go Backwards?

Whales swim, but their ancestors walked. Whales are mammals (like us) whose ancestors lived on land. Life probably began in the ocean and then evolved to colonize the land. Yet the whale’s ancestors gradually...