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ALL ABOUT WHALES!
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Whale Glossary
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U-Z

M


Magnetic field

The Earth's magnetic field is aligned with the north and south poles, and has reversed many times during geologic history. Whales may use the magnetic field of the Earth for navigation purposes on their long migrations across the oceans.


Mammal

Mammals are warm-blooded animals with hair that nourish their young with milk. Primitive mammals evolved during the Triassic period. Whales are mammals.

Mammary glands

Female mammals have mammary glands that produce milk for their young. Whales feed their young with milk from their mammary glands.


MANATEE

Manatees are gentle, slow-swimming, aquatic mammals. They are not whales (order Cetacea), but belong to the order Sirenia.
Marine mammals

Marine mammals are mammals that live in the sea and breathe air. Whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions, and sea otters are marine mammals.

Mass extinction

Mass extinction is the process in which huge numbers of species die out suddenly. The dinosaurs (and many other species) went extinct during the K-T extinction.

Median notch

The median notch is the indentation between the two flukes.

Median ridge

The median ridge is the raised line that runs along a whale's head from its blowhole to its lips.

Melon

The melon (or forehead) is the rounded structure in the top surface of toothed whale's heads just in front of the blowhole. The melon is used in focusing a whale's sounds (it is an acoustical lens for echolocation) and filled with fatty deposits (lipids) that change shape as the whale is making sounds.

Mesonychid

Mesonychids were hoofed, hyena-like, land-dwelling mammals that may have been an ancestor of the whales. They were the size of wolves, but had skull the size of bear skulls. They had four short legs, big feet, and 2-3 inch (5-8 cm) notched, triangular teeth similar to those of early predatory whales. They lived about 56 million years ago.
Mesozoic Era
The Mesozoic Era ("The Age of Reptiles"), occurred from 245-65 million years ago. It is divided into the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods. Dinosaurs, mammals, and flowering plants evolved during the Mesozoic, and Pangaea broke up. The era ended with the K-T mass extinction.


Metamorphic rock

Metamorphic rocks are compacted by pressure and heat from deep inside the earth.


Meteor

A meteor is a meteoroid that has entered the Earth's atmosphere, usually making a fiery trail as it falls. It is sometimes called a shooting star. Most burn up before hitting the Earth.


Meteorite

A meteorite is a meteor that has fallen to Earth. Meteorites are either stone, iron, or stony-iron.


Meteoroid

Meteoroids are tiny stones or pieces of metal that travel through space.

Migration

A migration is a seasonal journey from one region to another. Many whales migrate yearly from cold feeding waters to warm breeding waters. Gray whales make the longest cetacean migration.
1,000,000

Million

A million is a thousand thousand. The dinosaurs lived millions of years ago.

Mineral

A mineral is a naturally-occurring solid of definite chemical composition whose atoms usually form a regular pattern.


Minke whale

Minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) are the smallest baleen whales. They have a huge head - up to one quarter of the length of the body. They weigh up to 9.5 tons and are about 30 feet (9 m) long.


mollusk

Mollusks are marine invertebrates with a soft, unsegmented body. Many have a calcerous shell around the body. Mollusks include squid, octopus, chitons, snails, and bivalves (like clams).


Mosasaur

Mosasaurs were giant, carnivorous marine reptiles (but not dinosaurs) that lived during the late Cretaceous period. They were powerful swimmers that had four paddle-like limbs on a long, streamlined body. The large head had large jaws with many teeth. They hunted fish, turtles, mollusks, and shellfish. Some Mosasaurs include the Mosasaurus (33 feet=10 m long with sharp teeth from the North Atlantic), Platecarpus, Tylosaurus (26 feet=8 m long with sharp teeth from the North and South Atlantic), Plotosaurus, Clidastes, Plioplatecarpus, and Globidens (with flat teeth for crushing shellfish). The first Mosasaur, Mosasaurus hoffmani, was found in the Netherlands in 1780.

Mustached whales

Mustached whales (also known as baleen whales, or Mysticeti) are filter feeders that have baleen, a sieve-like device use for filter feeding krill, copepods, and small fish. They are the largest whales and have 2 blowholes. Mustached whales include blue, gray, humpback, minke, bowhead, and right whales. Many Mustached whale species are endangered.

MUTUALISM

Mutualism is an association between two different species of organisms in which both benefit from the association. An example of mutualism is the relationship between bees and the flowers they sip nectar from- the bees get nectar from the flower and the flower gets pollinated by the bees. Mutualism used to be called symbiosis (which is now a more general term).
1,000,000

MYA
"mya" stands for millions of years ago.

Mysticeti

Mysticeti whales (also known as baleen, or mustached whales) are filter feeders that have baleen, a sieve-like device use for filter feeding krill, copepods, and small fish. They are the largest whales and have 2 blowholes. Mysticeti whales include blue, gray, humpback, minke, bowhead, and right whales. Many Mysticeti species are endangered.

Zoom Whales
Whale Glossary
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