Whale Adaptations: The Tail
to Main Lesson
on drawing to see labeled enlargement
for Powerful Propulsion
- The horizontal
tail is two large flukes with a notch between them. An adult's tail
flukes can measure over three meters (9 feet) across and can weigh up
to 180 kg (400 pounds).
- The tail
is mostly made of strong connective tissues. It is powered by a massive
muscle system. (The muscle system of a gray whale accounts for one-third
of its total body weight.)
- As whales
adapted from land animals to life in the sea, bones in the lower spine
loosened up to power the tail movement.
- The tail?s
leisurely up-and-down motion provides powerful forward propulsion. Some
estimates say that this motion is the equivalent of a 500 horsepower
engine mounted at the rear of the whale!