Cetacea – Whales & dolphins

In the great depths of ocean mysteries, one of the most specialized and unique orders of mammals evolved. Highly intelligent, peaceful, communicative, and social animals, these inhabitants of the open sea subsist on animal substances.

Cetaceans evolved from a group of short, four-legged landlubbers that existed around 48 million years ago, but the definite point of origin is still unknown. They are the only mammals besides sea cows that have completely adapted to marine life.

In 1986, the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling, yet Japan, Canada, the US, Russia, South Korea, Canada, Iceland, Denmark & Norway continue to hunt whales. These peaceful mammals are mainly hunted for blubber- the thick outer shell of their body fat that helps regulate temperature.

There are two suborders of Cetacea: baleen whales (mysticetes), having the upper jaw furnished with plates of baleen for straining food from marine water, and toothed whales (odontocetes), which possess a variable number of simplified conical teeth. Cetaceans are the large-scale nutrient distributor in the ocean ecosystem.