Mammals

From whales and dolphins to seals and sea otters. Marine mammals are defined by their reliance on the ocean for food, along with mammalian characteristics such as hair and mammary glands. 

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Hawaiian Monk Seal

DIVE DEEPER

Backbone of Biodiversity at Risk

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature ( IUCN ) maintains the Red List of Threatened Species , an inventory...
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...

Sharks

There are more than 500 species of sharks swimming in the world’s ocean. Yet when most people think of these cartilaginous fish, a single image comes to mind: a large, sharp-toothed and scary beast...
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:...
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When Did Today’s Whales Get So Big?

More recently than you might think, say scientists who scoured the fossil record Two skulls belonging to extinct marine mammal herbivores used in the new study, both from the Smithsonian’s collections. Credit: A. Boersma...
A hippopotamus-like creature swims underwater

Flippers or Feet? An Extinct Mammal May Have Been Replaced By Today's Sea Cows

In the seagrass beds and kelp forests of the Oligocene-Miocene transition, nearly 32.5 to 10.5 million years ago, a four-legged, gnarly-toothed mammal roamed the Northern Pacific shores of what is now Japan, Canada and...
North Atlantic right whales and ocean-going vessels often cross paths.

Slow Down for Right Whales

Video of Slow Down For Right Whales By Hannah Waters Right whales in the North Atlantic are real city slickers. Rather than spend their time in the ocean’s wide-open range, they swim in warm...
Turbinolia stephensoni

Ocean Objects of Wonder

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:...
Sea otters floating on the surface of the ocean.

Not Just Another Fuzzy Face

A raft of sea otters grooming and resting after foraging. Credit: © Elise Newman Montanino Who hasn’t grinned at the sight of a sea otter floating on its back while grooming itself? No doubt...

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...
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How Do Sea Lions Swim?

Sea lions generate thrust, or forward propulsion, by bringing their fore-flippers together in big sweeping motions called “claps.” When a sea lion “claps,” it stretches its flippers out to the sides and sweeps them...

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...
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Why a Tusk? The real-life unicorns of the sea and the tusks that make them famous

A narwhal breaching the water's surface, his tusk points to the sky. Male narwhals will sometimes cross their tusks, a behavior called "tusking". Credit: Glenn Williams In the frigid Arctic Ocean , a mysterious...

Why do Whales Sing?

The ocean is a vast, open space, so to communicate underwater, it's best that your message travels far. Sound travels four times faster in water than in air, so many animals use this to...
Hawaiian Monk Seal

Backbone of Biodiversity at Risk

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature ( IUCN ) maintains the Red List of Threatened Species , an inventory of the global conservation status of plants and animals. In a 2010 study...
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...

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