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ALL ABOUT WHALES!
What is a Whale? Whale Information Sheets Anatomy and Behavior Extreme Whales Whale Myths Whale Evolution Whale Classification Whale Glossary Whale Activities Whale Index

WHALE ANATOMY AND BEHAVIOR
General Anatomy Size Pods The Senses Baleen
Reproduction Diet Flukes Sleep Offense/
Defense
Blowhole

BLOWHOLE

Whales are mammals who breathe air into their lungs. Blowholes are a whale's nostrils and are located on the top or back of the whale's head. Blowholes are covered by muscular flaps that keep water from entering them when the whale is under water. In the relaxed state, the flap covers the blowhole. A blowhole leads to the whale's trachea and then to its lungs. Unlike us, whales cannot breathe through their mouth; they only breathe throught their blowholes.



Baleen whales (like humpbacks, blue whales, gray whales, bowhead whales, etc.) have two blowholes, located side by side. Toothed whales (like sperm whales, beluga whales, dolphins, etc.) have one blowhole.

At the surface of the water, whales open their blowhole(s) and exhale air explosively through their blowhole. This exhaled air from the blowhole is called the blow and usually forms a gusher or a bushy stream of misty air and vapor. This is immediately followed by inhalation of fresh air, and the blowhole(s) close again. (Blowholes are in a closed position when the whale relaxes.) This breathing pattern takes only a fraction of a second for small cetaceans (dolphins and porpoises), but it may take a few seconds for larger whales.

Just before a whale dives underwater, strong muscles surrounding the blowhole relax and the protective flap covers the blowhole.

Whales cannot breathe through through their mouths (like people can). Their trachea (the tube to the lungs) and esophagus (the tube to the stomach) are not connected.

Why do some whales have one blowhole and some have two?
Most mammals have two nostrils (blowhole equivalents). One of the nostrils (air-passages) of toothed whales evolved into their echolocation system (the sensing system in which they make and recieve high-pitched sounds in order to orient themselves, catch prey, and communicate), leaving them with only one blowhole.



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