Colossal Dictionary of

Whale Words

Everyday WhaleTimes receives seamail™ questions from kids and adults wanting to know more about whales. Often they’re confused by words relating to whales because these terms are used differently than defined in a standard dictionary. That’s why we created the Colossal Dictionary of Whale Words. It can help you decipher scientific jargon and give you a better insight into the world of whales.

                                                                Good luck with your research,

                                                                                Jake, the SeaDog™

FOOTNOTE: Please note: Italicized words within a definition indicate that word or phrase is also defined within this book.

*This next word is out of order, but if you don’t know what a whale is, the rest of the words may not help!

*whale: An animal that lives in the water that has a blowhole, pectoral flippers, and tail flukes. Whales are marine mammals that spend their entire lives in the water - usually in the ocean, but some live in freshwater rivers. There are about 80 different kinds of whales found throughout the world. (Note: Many people do not realize that dolphins are whales.) Examples include spinner dolphins, finless porpoises, and blue whales.  2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

A is for...

adaptation: A body part or behavior that helps an animal survive. Flippers, blowholes, and tail flukes are examples of whale adaptations. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

algae: A primitive or "simple" plant that does not have roots or leaves. Examples of algae include seaweed and diatoms. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

ambergris: A waxy brown (or gray) substance produced in the large intestine of a sperm whale. It is thought ambergris is produced to protect the whale’s digestive tract from the sharp beaks of its favorite food -- giant squid.  2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

amphipods: A type of crustacean. There are about 5,000 different kinds of amphipods, most are only a few millimeters long. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

archeocete: Prehistoric whales in the suborder Archaeoceti. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

Archaeoceti: One of the three scientific suborders of whales. Archeocetes are prehistoric whales and all are extinct. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

auntie dolphin: The term used to describe a bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), that assists or stays near a newborn calf and its mother. The "auntie" dolphin can be male or female. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

B is for...

Balaenidae: The scientific family of whales known as right whales. Whales in this family: 1) have long baleen plates; 2) do not have a dorsal fin; 3) do not have ventral throat grooves. There are four known species in this group including the northern right whale and bowhead whale. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

Balaenopteridae: The scientific family of whales known as rorquals. Whales in this family have 1) ventral throat grooves that expand when they eat; 2) a small dorsal fin; 3) shorter baleen plates. There are six known species in this group including the blue whale and humpback whale. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

 

 

 

baleen: Baleen hangs from the upper jaw of a mysticete (baleen whale). It is made of the same material as our fingernails or hair. How does it work? The part of the baleen plate inside the mouth splits or has fringes. The fringes, which feel like thick coarse hair, mat together. When the whale takes in a mouth full of water and food, it pushes the water out between the baleen plates. The food is trapped in the fringes of the baleen. (The food is swallowed whole.) A baleen whale calf is born with soft, short baleen. Like our finger nails, baleen continues to grow throughout the animal’s life.

Whales were hunted for their baleen. Before plastics, the baleen, sometimes called whalebone, was used for corset stays, buggy whips, umbrella ribs, carriage springs, skirt hoops, brushes, combs, shoehorns, nets, fishing rods, and other products. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

baleen plates: Inside the mouth of a baleen whale, you’ll find the baleen plates growing from the gums of the upper jaw. The plates hang closely beside each other like books on a shelf. The (outside) non-fringed part of the baleen feels similar to a person’s fingernail. The frayed edges (inside the mouth) look and feel like stiff, thick hair. Baleen plates may be wide and long, but compared to the size of the animal they are not very thick. The number, size, and color of the baleen plates depends on the kind of whale. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

baleen whale: A common name for whales in the scientific suborder, Mysticeti. This common name refers to their baleen. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

barnacle: A type of crustacean. The barnacle looks very different than its cousins the shrimp and crab. There are about 900 different kinds of barnacles, so depending on the species, it may attach itself to rocks, boats, a pier, even an animal. Its body is protected by shell-like plates. Some species of barnacles attach themselves to baleen whales. These barnacles "go along for the ride" feeding on plankton in the water. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

beached (animal): Refers to a marine animal washed up on shore. (See stranded animal.) 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

behavior: The way an animal acts or something it can do. Examples of a whale’s behavior include swimming, diving, breathing, and eating. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

bends (the): An illness caused by the decompression (enlargement) of nitrogen bubbles in the blood and tissues during a dive. The bends cause extreme pain, severe physical debilitation, even death. (See decompression sickness.) 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

blow: A reference to the visible exhaled air of a whale. When the whale exhales, warmed condensed air from the lungs mixes with the cool sea air and creates a visible, steam-like vapor. (Sort of like seeing your breath when it is cold.) 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

blowhole: The nose of a whale. The blowhole is located on top of the whale’s head. The blowhole leads to the air passages of the whale. Depending on the kind of whale their may be one or two blowholes. A strong muscular flap opens when the animal exhales and inhales, then snaps shut to keep water out of its lungs. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

blubber: The thick layer of fat in marine mammals (and penguins). Blubber is important for many reasons: 1) It helps keep the animal warm; 2) Blubber is an energy reserve for animals when food is scarce, during migrations, or other times they are unable to hunt; 3) Blubber streamlines the animal - making it sleek and smooth. Before modern synthetics and other replacements, whale blubber was an important commercial product. Melted down to an oil, it was used for heating, lubrication, and lamps. It was also used in the processing of soap, candles, paint, textiles, margarine, and rope. Some people also eat whale meat and blubber. It is an important part of their culture and/or an important part of their survival -- see muktuk2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

C is for...

calf: A baby whale. Whale calves are born in the water and may be born head or tail first. Although twins are possible, usually only one calf is born at a time. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

callosity (plural-callosities): The callous-like growths found on a right whale’s head, upper- and lower-jaw (chin and lips, too), and near the blowhole. Scientists do not know the purpose of these yellowish-white encrusted patches of skin. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

Cetacea: The scientific order which includes all whales. Includes three suborders. Archaeoceti (prehistoric whales); Mysticeti (baleen whales); and Odontoceti (toothed whales). All cetaceans live in the water, have a blowhole, pectoral flippers, and tail flukes. Whales are marine mammals that spend their entire lives in the water -- usually in the ocean, but some live in freshwater rivers. There are about 80 different kinds of whales found throughout the world. Examples include spinner dolphins, finless porpoises, and blue whales.2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

cetacean: Refers to an animal in the scientific order Cetacea. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

cooperative hunting: When a group of animals work together to hunt. Examples of cooperative hunters includes killer whales and Amazon river dolphins. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

countershading: A type of camouflage where an animal is darker on top (dorsal) and lighter underneath (ventral). The darker color blends into the darker ocean. The lighter underside blends into the lighter sky or water surface. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

cow: A female whale. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

crustacean: A group of animals in the scientific phylum Crustacea. Crustaceans include shrimp, lobsters, crabs, barnacles, copepods, and amphipods. Because there are more than 28,000 known species of crustaceans, the size, shape, diet, and natural history varies. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

D is for...

disruptive coloration: A type of camouflage. An animal’s contrasting coloration minimizes or breaks up its appearance. For example, the black color of a killer whale blends into the dark ocean, leaving only the white spots which might look like smaller animals or perhaps floating ice or bits of debris in the water. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

dolphin: Common name for whales in the Delphinidae Family. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

dorsal fin: The fin found on back (top) of some whales. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

dorsal ridge: Some whales, like the gray whale, do not have a dorsal fin, but do have a series of ridges or knuckles on their back. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

E is for...

echolocation: The ability of some whales to use sound to "see." Here’s how it works....sounds produced in the nasal passages of the toothed whale are sent out through the melon in a beam. The sounds bounce - or echo - off objects. The sounds are picked up through its lower jaw and is interpreted by the whale. Using echolocation, a toothed whale can tell how big something is, how far away it is, even how thick it is. It is thought most toothed whales can echolocate, baleen whales cannot. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

ecology: The study of an animal’s home or ecosystem. [Note: Many people misuse this word thinking it means habitat, environment, or conservation.] 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

ecosystem: The environment of a plant or animal and how it interacts with all aspects of that environment including the plants, animals, geology, climate, and weather. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

Endangered Species Act of 1973: Established by the United States government to stop the extinction of wild animals and plants in the United States. Depending on the kind of animal, the Endangered Species Act is governed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

entanglement: Usually refers to an animal trapped or tangled in fishing gear, trash, nets, or other obstacles. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

euphausiid: A type of crustacean also known as krill. These small shrimp-like animals are a kind of zooplankton. Krill are filter feeders that eat phytoplankton. It is an important part the diet of many marine animals including some baleen whales and penguins. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

F is for...

falcate: Curved back. For example, the dorsal fin of a dolphin is often triangular and slightly falcate. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

fin: A boneless appendage of some marine animals. The number, shape, size, and purpose of the fin depends on the kind of animal. Some whales have a fin on their back called a dorsal fin. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

flensing: The cutting or removal of the blubber from a dead whale (or marine mammal).2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

flippers: (See pectoral flipper).

flipper-slapping:  A behavior of a whale when it slaps its flipper on the surface of the water. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

flukes: (See tail flukes.)

fusiform: Refers to the sleek, torpedo-shape of many marine animals. This streamlined body shape enables the animal to move through with water with little resistance - or drag - making it energy-efficient. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

G is for...

genital slits: Small openings on the underside (ventral side) of a marine mammal that hide or conceal the genitals of the animal (or marine mammal).  2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

gulpers: A nickname given to whales in the Balaenopteridae Family because of the way some of them hunt and eat. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

H is for...

herd: A large grouping of toothed whales, generally, several pods gathered together. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

harpoon: The spear-like tool used by whalers to catch and kill the whale. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

I is for...

indigenous: People, plants, or animals that belong or naturally occur in an area. Example: Narwhals are indigenous to the Arctic. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

International Whaling Commission (IWC): Created in 1946, the IWC was formed to regulate, monitor, and manage whale stocks. Initially created by whaling nations, it now includes whaling and non-whaling countries who are working toward the conservation and wise management of whale species worldwide. The IWC, using scientific research, helps determine guidelines on how many animals, if any, from a species, population, or stock may be taken each year. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN): Also called the World Conservation Union, the IUCN is a worldwide conservation organization established in 1948 to encourage a worldwide approach to conservation assisting and encouraging societies to protect and wisely use their natural resources. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

Inuits: Indigenous people who live in or near the Arctic, in the northern parts of North America, Canada, and Greenland. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

K is for...

knuckles (dorsal): A series of ridges or knuckles on the back of some whale species. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

krill: A type of crustacean also called a euphausiid. These small shrimp-like animals are a kind of zooplankton. Krill are filter feeders that eat phytoplankton. It is an important part of the diet of many marine animals including some baleen whales and penguins. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

L is for...

lactate: When a female mammal produces milk to feed her young. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

leviathan: An enormous animal or creature. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

lob-tail: A behavior of a whale when it slaps the surface of the water with its tail flukes. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

M is for...

mammal: A group of animals that 1) breathe air; 2) have hair; 3) are born live; 4) nurse from their mothers; 5) and are warm-blooded. Examples of mammals includes dogs, cats, people, and whales. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

mammary slits: Small openings on the underside (ventral side) that hide or conceal the teats (nipples) of a female whale (and other marine mammals). (Also see genital slits.) 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

marine animal: An animal that lives in or depends on the ocean to survive. Examples of marine animals includes shrimp, whales, penguins, and squid. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

marine mammal: A mammal that lives most or all of its life in the ocean and/or depends on the ocean for its survival. Examples of marine mammals includes whales, seals, and polar bears. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

Marine Mammal Stranding Network (MMSN): Established by the NMFS, the MMSN collects data on stranded animals. This data is compiled and provides an excellent record. Much of what we know about many animals has been learned from stranded animals. In fact, some species are only known from stranded animals. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (MMPA): The Marine Mammal Protection Act was passed by the United States government to protect and rebuild marine mammal populations. The MMPA made it illegal to hunt, harm, disturb, annoy, or harass any marine mammal--including disrupting migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering. That means people cannot approach or interact with any marine mammal - on a beach, in the water, or even in a boat, helicopter or airplane - unless they have special permits. Oceanariums, rescuers, and researchers must have special permits to interact with, remove, or even assist a marine mammal. This act includes the ownership, sale, or transport of bones, baleen, tusks, and other body parts of marine mammals. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

mass stranding: When a group of whales strand together. Scientists are unsure of the causes, however, mass strandings may be caused by illness, impaired echolocation ability, or errors in following geomagnetics cues or the contours of the shore. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

median notch: The notch in the middle of the tail where the left and right tail flukes meet. Most whales have a median notch. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

melon: The fat-filled region in the forehead of a toothed whale. The melon directs or focuses sounds out into a beam. The sounds may be for communication and echolocation. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

migration: When an animal travels long distances to...take advantage of weather, food sources, find a mate, or give birth. Generally, it is the baleen whales that migrate. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

Monodontidae: The scientific family of whales which includes only two species - the white whale (beluga) and the narwhal. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

mucous tear: The oily tear that constantly washes or bathes the eye of a marine mammal. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

muktuk: The skin and fat sliced from a narwhal, beluga or other marine mammals, eaten boiled or raw by the some Inuits. For some muktuk is an important source of vitamin C. (Muktuk is called mattak in Greenlandic) 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

mysticete: Whales in the scientific suborder Mysticeti. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

Mysticeti: A scientific suborder of whales known as baleen whales or mysticetes. All baleen whales have baleen and two blowholes. In general, the adult females are larger than the males. The exact diet of a baleen whale depends on the kind of whale, however, they are all filter feeders that eat plankton and/or small fish. The three scientific families within the Mysticeti suborder: Balaenidae, Balaenopteridae, and Eschrichtiidae. Examples of mysticetes includes blue whales and gray whales. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

N is for...

NMFS: The abbreviation for the National Marine Fisheries Service. (See NOAA -- Fisheries) 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

Nantucket sleigh ride: What whalers called it when a harpooned whale pulled a small whaling boat while it tried to get away. Whalers, holding on to the rope attached to the harpoon, were pulled (towed) many miles before the whale got tired. Because of the strength and size of the whales, it was a dangerous, even deadly job. Whalers on a "Nantucket sleigh ride" were sometimes missing days, even weeks - some were never found. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS): The old title for the NOAA Fisheries. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

NOAA Fisheries: NOAA Fisheries Service supports domestic and international conservation and management of living marine resources. NOAA Fisheries provides services and products to support domestic and international fisheries management operations, fisheries development, trade and industry assistance activities, enforcement, protected species and habitat conservation operations, and the scientific and technical aspects of NOAA’s marine fisheries. NMFS is a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - a United States governmental agency. (www.noaa.gov) (Formerly called National Marine Fisheries.) 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s mission is to describe and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, and to conserve and wisely manage the Nation’s coastal and marine resources to ensure sustainable economic opportunities. NOAA administers the National Marine Fisheries Service programs. (www.noaa.gov) 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

NOAA: The abbreviation for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

nursing: When the calf (baby) suckles milk from its mother. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

O is for...

odontocete: Whales in the scientific suborder Odontoceti. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

Odontoceti: A scientific suborder of whales known as toothed whales or odontocetes. Toothed whales have teeth and one blowhole. The size and shape of the teeth and the diet of a toothed whale varies greatly depending on the kind of whale and where it lives. Many toothed whales eat fish, squid, and crustaceans. Some may also eat seals, sea lions, penguins, sharks, and seabirds. There are six scientific families within the Odontoceti suborder: Delphinidae, Monodontidae, Phocoenidae, Physeteridae, Platanistidae, and Ziphiidae. Examples of odontocetes include sperm whales, dolphins, and beaked whales. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

P is for...

parasite: An organism that lives in or on its host eating the skin and other tissues. The parasite benefits from this relationship, the host does not. Most animals have internal and external parasites. Whale lice are a well-known example of a external parasites of a baleen whales. Other parasites of whales includes copepods, nematodes, trematodes, and cestodes. Some call the barnacles on whales parasites, but since they just "go along for the ride" filtering plankton from the water, their role as a parasite has been debated. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

pectoral flipper: The forelimb of a marine mammal, used for steering and stopping. The paddle-like flippers contain a similar bone structure to our hand and arm. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

peduncle: The muscular area before the tail of a whale. The peduncle is like the motor of a boat (and the whale’s tail the propeller). 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

Phocoenidae: The scientific family of whales known as porpoises. There are six known species in this group including the Dall’s porpoise, vaquita, and finless porpoise. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

Physeteridae: The scientific family of whales known as sperm whales. There are three known species in this group including the sperm whale and pygmy sperm whale. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

phytoplankton: A type of plankton. Phytoplankton are plant or plant-like organisms. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

plankton: Plankton is a free-floating organism - without the ability to move on its own. Drifting in the water, plankton relies on the currents to take it here and there. Although some are larger, most plankton is very small, often microscopic. Example of larger plankton include krill and some jellyfish. There are two kinds of plankton -phytoplankton (plant-like) and zooplankton (animal-like). Plankton is an important food source for many ocean animals. [Note: Plankton refers to a "lifestyle" -- floating in the water -- not any specific group of plants or animals.] 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

Platanistidae: The scientific family of whales known as river dolphins. There are five known species including the Amazon and Chinese river dolphins. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

pleats: :(See ventral throat grooves.) 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

pod: A small group of toothed whales that travel or hunt together. Pod sizes may range from two to ten animals. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

porpoise: Common name for whales in the Phocoenidae Family. Examples of porpoises include Dall’s porpoise, vaquita, and finless porpoise. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

porpoising: A behavior when a fast moving marine animal leaps from the water over and over in a series of small bows. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

predator: An animal that hunts and eats other animals. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

prey: The animal that is hunted and eaten by another animal. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

R is for...

rendering: The processing of blubber. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

rostrum: The mouth area of a whale, sometimes called a "beak." 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

S is for...

scrimshaw: An art form using whale bones or teeth. The bone or tooth was polished then the picture and/or words were etched using a knife, needle, or nail. The engraved art was then darkened with ashes or other materials. Snuff boxes, buttons, knitting needles, napkin rings, walking sticks, and other creations were made with scrimshaw. In the past, Inuits and whalers both created scrimshaw art. Today, because of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species scrimshaw is a limited art form. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

scurvy: A disease caused by a lack of Vitamin C. [Some Inuits eat muktuk, the skin and blubber of whales which contains high amounts of vitamin C.] 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

size dominance: This refers to animals who are dominant because of size and/or strength. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

skimmers: A nickname given to whales in the Balaenidae Family because of the way some hunt and eat. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

slip stream: A wake created by the movement of the mother through the water. The slip stream pulls the calf along allowing it to keep up with the mother with minimal effort. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

sound/sounding: When a whale goes on a deep dive. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

sperm oil: A mixture of spermaceti oil and the melted blubber from a sperm whale. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

spermaceti organ: The spongy, barrel-shaped organ found in a sperm whale’s head.  2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

spermaceti oil: The oil found in the spermaceti organ of a sperm whale. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

spermaceti wax: Another name for spermaceti oil. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

spout: Another word sometimes used to describe a whale’s blow. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

spyhop: A behavior of a whale when it "stands" vertically in the water with its head and sometimes eyes out of the water.  2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

stranded (animal): Refers to a marine animal washed up on shore. An animal may become stranded because it is ill, injured, tired from a storm, entangled in debris, or dead. Sometimes groups of whales strand together - called a mass stranding. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

stock: Refers to a population of whales found in a specific area of the world. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

streamline: Refers to the sleek, smooth body shape of many marine animals. A streamlined body shape enables the animal move through with water with little resistance - or drag - making it energy-efficient. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

subsistence hunting: Hunting whales (and other animals) for the purpose of survival. Many cultures depend on whale meat, blubber, skin and other by-products to survive. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

T is for...

tail flukes: The tail of a whale. Each side of the tail is called a fluke. Whales have two flukes - a right and a left. The whale swims by moving its tail flukes up-and-down. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

tapetum lucidum: In some animals, the tapetum lucidum is found at the back of the eye behind the retina. When light passes through the retina it is reflected (bounced) off the tapetum lucidum back through the retina. This adaptation doubles the light the eye can use to see, which can help an animal see better in the dark. (You can see the reflection from the tapetum lucidum in the glow of a cat’s eye.) 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

temperate waters: Usually refers to water temperatures ranging from about 10 to 21 C. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

Thar she blows!: An expression used to indicate seeing a whale or its blow. The whale’s blow was one of the signs whalers used to find whales. Today, whale watchers use it to let others know they’ve spotted a whale. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

thermoregulation: How an animal maintains or regulates its body temperature. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

throat grooves: Another name for ventral throat grooves. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

throat pleats: Another name for ventral throat grooves. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

toothed whale: A nickname for whales in the scientific suborder, Odontoceti. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

tusk: A modified tooth. Narwhals have one long tusk. Beaked whales have two to four tusks. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

U is for...

upwelling: Areas of the ocean where the cooler waters beneath the sea are pushed to the surface by warmer currents. Upwellings are often referred to as "nutrient rich" because of the quantity of food it brings with it. Because it is an excellent food source, upwellings attract many animals. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS): The primary responsibility of the USFWS is fish, wildlife, and plant conservation. Its major responsibilities are migratory birds, endangered species, some marine mammals, and freshwater and anadromous fish (ocean fish that travel up river spawn). 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

V is for...

vein: In an animal, a vein is the blood vessel that carries blood throughout the body to the heart. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

ventral: Underside or bottom of the animal. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

ventral throat grooves: Folds of skin under the chin of some whales. The throat grooves of a rorqual expands -- like pleats -- when it eats. This adaptation allows the whale to take in huge mouthfuls of water and food. (Also called pleats, throat grooves, throat pleats, and ventral grooves.) 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

vocalizations: The sounds an animal produces. Depending on the species, a whale’s vocalizations may be used to communicate and/or echolocate. Sounds may be produced in the nasal passages below the blowhole. Whales do not have vocal cords. Whales do not have a language, but may use vocalizations to communicate things like who they are, where they are, pod identification, or advertise for mates. Vocalizations are also used by toothed whales to echolocate. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

W is for...

wake: The movement or turbulence of water caused by something moving through it - a boat, for example. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

warm-blooded: An animal that’s body temperature remains the same no matter what the temperature is outside its body. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

whale: (See Cetacea).

whale lice: External parasites that attach and live on a whale. Whale lice are crustaceans that feed on the skin of the whale. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

whalebone: Another name for the baleen of a whale. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

whaler: Refers to a person who hunts whales for a living. (This name usually refers to commercial whaling, not individuals who subsistence hunt.) 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

whaling: Another way of saying hunting whales. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

whaling ships: Whaling ships are large ships designed for whale hunting. In the past, these factory ships allowed whalers to hunt, catch, and process whales at sea. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

WhaleTimes: The internationally recognized award-winning website where students and adults can learn more about ocean animals like whales, dolphins, sharks, and other wonders of the sea. A popular part of the website is "Ask Jake, the SeaDog." SeaDog answers seamail questions from students all over the world. (www.whaletimes.org) 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

World Conservation Union (IUCN): The IUCN is a worldwide conservation organization established in 1948. The IUCN encourages a worldwide approach to conservation by assisting and encouraging societies to protect and wisely use their natural resources. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

Z is for...

Ziphiidae: The scientific family of whales known as beaked whales. There are eighteen species in this group including the bottlenose whale, Baird’s beaked whale, and Hubb’s beaked whale. Beaked whales do not have a median notch and most two to four tusks. 2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

zooplankton: A type of plankton. Zooplankton are animal or animal-like organisms.  2000 WhaleTimes All rights reserved.

 

Many of the terms, phrases, or descriptions in this book may apply to other animals. However, since the book’s focus is only whales, some definitions may not be accurate or correct for other animals or subjects. Although we have endeavored to be accurate, scientists discover something new about whales every day. These discoveries may add new words, phrases, or sometimes change definitions.

 

Citation: Musgrave, Ruth A. Colossal Dictionary of Whale Words. Fishin' for Facts. WhaleTimes, Inc. (whaletimes.org) 2011

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