From Head to Tail
What if your eyeball were the size of a baseball? What if your heart weighed
285 pounds (130 kilograms)? You might be a gray whale! A 45-foot, 35-ton gray
whale is about the same size as 10 large elephants. Let's look at a gray whale
from head to tail.
Gray whales have streamlined bodies with narrow, tapered heads. The whole skull
of the gray whale is disproportionately large. It takes up about one-fifth
of the total body length.
The upper jaw slightly overlaps the lower jaw. The curve of the mouth is long.
From the side view, it appears to curve downward, ending just under the eye.
The tongue of a gray whale can weigh 1000-3000 pounds (up to 1,300 kg). It
represents at least 5 percent of the entire surface area of a gray whale's
body. The huge tongue is muscular and nimble to help the whale during feeding.
An adult's eyes are about the size of baseballs. The eyes are located about 6
to 7 feet (2 meters) behind the tip of the snout, or roughly one-sixth of the
distance from the front to the end of the whale.
Do you see the two blowholes? Each blowhole measures about 8 inches (20 centimeters)
long. The blowholes are about the same distance back from the tip of the nose
as the eyes. A gray whale spout or blow can reach up to 15 feet, and looks
like a heart shape from the front or behind.
Dorsal (Top) Side
A gray whale has no dorsal (top) fin. A prominent dorsal hump rises about two-thirds
of the way back on the body. The dorsal hump is followed by 6 to 12 bumps (knuckles)
along the dorsal ridge that extend to the fluke, or tail.
Two large flippers (pectoral fins) are located behind and below the eyes. Each
pectoral fin is four to five feet (1.2 to 1.5 m) long. The flippers are paddle
shaped and pointed at the tips. These pectoral fins help the whale steer, turn,
The gray whale's fluke is horizontal. The tail is about 12 feet (3.6 m) across,
which is roughly equal to about one-fourth of the whale's entire length.
The fluke is pointed at the tips, and deeply notched in the center. It looks
rather like a flattened, pointy valentine. The tail-flukes alone weigh 300-400
lbs. (136-180 kg).
Heavy Hitchhiking Barnacles
A large gray whale may carry several hundred pounds of hitchhiking barnacles
firmly attached to its head and body.
Born to be BIG!
A newborn gray whale is around 15 feet long at birth and weighs around
1,500 pounds. Calves may gain 60 to 70 pounds each day on their mother's fat-rich
milk. They reach 18 to 19 feet in length in their first three months of life.
By the time they're adults, gray whales weigh from 30-40 tons (27,200-36,300
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