Whales

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...

Happy 50th Birthday, FLIP – a Mobile Research Island

John Hildebrand discusses his research at the Scripps Whale Acoustic Lab on the FLIP platform. Ships are well-known for their tiny rooms and tight quarters. But have you heard of a sea vessel that...

Humpback Whales in Antarctica: What Are the Whales Doing?

A humpback whale breaching in Antarctic waters. Credit: Ari Friedlaender Humpback whales ( Megaptera novaengliae ) are the most abundant baleen whale in the nearshore waters around the Antarctic Peninsula. They, along with millions...
Hawaiian Monk Seal

Endangered Ocean Animals

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was signed into law on December 28, 1973 by President Nixon. Over 2,000 species are currently on the ESA, and they are separated into "Threatened" and "Endangered" species. Endangered...
Fossil Whale Digsite at Cerro Ballena, Chile

The Whale Graveyard Whodunit

Chilean and Smithsonian paleontologists study several fossil whale skeletons at Cerro Ballena, next to the Pan-American Highway in Atacama Region, Chile, in 2011. Credit: Adam Metallo / Smithsonian Institution One of the ocean's tiniest...
A humpback whale breaching.

Bacteria on Whale Skin Tell a Tale of Health and Sickness

A humpback whale breaching. Credit: Wanetta Ayers Whales swimming in the ocean are never really alone. Even if one swims by itself with no other whales for miles around, it still has company—the tiny...
The Charles W. Morgan tallship

History and Modern Science Collide for the 38th Voyage of the Charles W. Morgan

The Charles W. Morgan sailing en route to Newport on June 15, 2104. Credit: Courtesy of Mystic Seaport. Traveling aboard the Charles W. Morgan , a 173-year-old whaling ship on its 38th Voyage, I’m...
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...
An unidentified earplug from the National Museum of Natural History collection.

Whale Earwax: What You Can Learn From Strange Collections

An unidentified earplug from the National Museum of Natural History collection. The light and dark layers come from a build up of keratin and lipids and can be used to estimate whale age. Credit:...

Ocean Optimism Video - Slow Down For Right Whales

Whaling, beginning in the 1600s, killed thousands of North Atlantic right whales and their tendency to feed at the ocean’s surface within 50 miles of shore made them easy targets. They were hunted so...

Life After Whale (On Whale Falls)

When a whale dies, the story has just begun. The massive carcass sinks to the seafloor, where it provides food for a deep sea ecosystem on the otherwise mostly barren seafloor. There are several...

Song of the Spindle

Illustrator Drew Christie created this light-hearted short film about how humans could really learn something from whales. Check it out and learn about all the different cetaceans and our commonalities, such as a shared...
An adult and juvenile killer whale frolic in the water.

Menopausal Moms: A Mammal Mystery

Killer whales ( Orcinus orca ) have something in common with humans: early menopause. Credit: Robert L. Pitman, NOAA Fisheries, USA In honor of Mother's Day, the Citizens of the Sea blog salutes ocean-going...

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...