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Is It A Whale, A Shark Or A Dolphin?


A bit of imagination, music, movies, novels and live entertainment can all have the same topic: marine creatures. In fact, when you hear some relaxation music themed around whale songs, that you read a novel titled Moby Dick, which is a legendary white sperm whale or even some facts about the blue whale, being the largest mammal on Earth, it is easy to think of whales.

The confusion comes when the term whale is part of a sea creature’s name. You see, when people talk about sharks, their mind is subdued by both the theme song and the horrific scenes that are part of the movie Jaws. The last thing that you would think of when observing or even swimming along the side of a whale shark, that such a large and peaceful animal may belong to the same family tree as the great white shark instead of the blue whale.

Another confusing sea creature is the killer whale. After all, doesn’t its name imply that it a whale while in fact it belongs to the dolphins’ family tree? Where is the resemblance with Flipper, the bottlenose dolphin? Isn’t it a marine mammal? Isn’t it big enough to be part of the whale family alongside the sperm whale?

Did you know that in fact, several sites, which are supposedly educational or well versed on these subjects, are still confused with the nature of each one of these sea creatures? Well, here are some facts that will help you differentiate each one of these animals.

First of all, while some people think that size matters and that in it would be good enough to categorize all these animals under the same family tree, the whales, there are some differences that should be noted. After all, not all trees or bushes have the same size. Not everything that looks like a carrot or a banana is the same type of food. A vegetable that could look like a carrot could in fact be a parsnip and something that looks like a banana could in reality be a plantain. Either way, they may have some similarities without being the same.

Besides the facts that the whale shark eats plankton and could easily compete in size with a few types of whales, the similarities stop there. Here are the facts about this animal that is in fact part of the family tree that covers about 350 types of sharks. You see, the first thing that you should know is that the whale shark is a fish. Unlike whales and dolphins, it is not a marine mammal so it does not need to go to the surface every 30 minutes to inhale some oxygen and release some carbon dioxide through its blowhole to survive. In fact, it doesn’t even have a blowhole. The oxygen intake is done through gills during the process of filtering the water.

Another fact is that it does not have a skeleton made of bones like whales and dolphins do, its own is cartilaginous. Also, the whale shark is viviparous, which means that it gives birth to live pups but does not produce milk or feed, or raise them the same way as marine mammals do. Starting at birth, like all types of sharks, the whale shark pups are on their own.

While some people think that killer whales should be in the same category as the sperm whale, which is part of the toothed whales called odontoceti, which they also belong to, there are some differences that apply in this case. You see, the killer whale is the single specie carrying the Orcinus gene.

Also, the physiology of this specie has its differences such as the shape of the dorsal fin. The killer whale as a large triangular dorsal fin, which is totally different is the sperm whale. You see, the dorsal fin of the sperm whale is located about two-thirds of the back, is short and certainly not as noticeable as the killer whale’s dorsal fin.

Another characteristic that differs in sperm whales and killer whales are their teeth. You see, both their teeth differ in size despite their similar hook shape but it doesn’t stop there. If you take a good look at pictures of their teeth on the Internet or in a book, you will notice that a sperm whale only has a row of teeth on its bottom jaw, while killer whale has a row of teeth on both upper and lower jaws.

As you can see, the whale shark, the blue whale, the sperm whale and killer whale’s only thing that make people believe they are all members of the whales’ family is the term “whale” being part of their name.
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