More Cetaceans

Close-up of a 17th century painting shows how whales were brought ashore for processing and their blubber rendered into marketable oil. More about the right whale can be found in our Tale of a Whale...
Monodontids, the group of whales that includes the belugas and narwhals swimming our ocean today, are emblematic symbols of the Arctic. However, their fossil record, although scarce, suggests that...
In the 19th century, "whalebone" was an important fashion tool—however, it wasn't made out of bone, but whale baleen . Dried baleen was flexible yet strong, and used to create structure in clothing,...
Sirenians , or seacows, are a group of marine mammals that include manatees and dugongs . Currently, only a single species of seacow is found anywhere in the world. However, the fossil record of...
Editor's note: Read Nick's first blog post about "toothed" baleen whales to see what their team is excavating on Vancouver Island. We departed from Port Renfrew on Tuesday morning on the Michelle...
Dr. Maya Yamato and colleague John Ososky dissect the head of a deceased stranded fin whale in the Chesapeake Bay to examine soft tissue associated with the ears. In 2015, Yamato’s team of...
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. This is the second specimen...
Whale baleen, the stiff bristly mouthparts that sieve small prey from the water, was strong yet flexible, and was used to provide structure in many human products, including umbrellas, corsets, and...
A North Atlantic right whale with a deep wound caused by entanglement in fishing gear floats at the surface in the Bay of Fundy on August 1, 1999. Crew members on the International Fund for Animal...
Breaching is a behavior seen in some baleen whales, where they launch their entire body out of the water headfirst and land with a large splash.
There were fewer than 450 North Atlantic right whales in 2006. Yet it has been illegal to hunt them since 1935. Why haven’t populations increased? Traits that made right whales easy to hunt make them...
Large whales are notoriously hard to study. Except when rising to breathe, they swim beneath the ocean's surface out of human sight, which makes it difficult to find and track them. They often live...
Vertebrates evolved in the sea and eventually moved onto land. The ancestors of whales later returned to the sea, taking advantage of its rich food supplies. As early whales adapted to their new...
Nick Pyenson, the curator of fossil marine mammals at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, points to the skull and skeleton of a fossil "toothed" mysticete ( baleen whale ) on the...
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 rises out of the waters east of Cape Cod, MA, in April 2003. The rough patches of skin (known as callosities) occur in unique patterns on all North Atlantic right whales and help researchers...
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...
This early whale was well suited to life at sea. But it also may have spent time on land. An ancestor of the right whale , Maiacetus lived 49-40 million years ago. It had flipper-like limbs and...
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