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Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Chordata (vertebrates)
Class - Mammalia (mammals)
Order - Cetacea
Whales belong to the order Cetacea (from the Greek word "ketos" which means whale), which is divided into the following suborders:
- Odontoceti or toothed whales - killer whales (orcas), beluga whales (white whales), sperm whales, the Beaked Whales, dolphins, and porpoises.
- family Physeteridae - Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus )
- family Kogiidae - Pygmy and Dwarf Sperm Whales
- family Zipihiidae - the many Beaked Whales
- family Delphinidae - many Dolphins (including the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin and the Spotted dolphin), killer whale (Orcinus orca), Pilot Whales and the false Killer Whale (Pseudorca crassidens)
- family Monodontidae - Beluga (Delphinapterus leucas ), Narwhal (Monodon monoceros )
- family Platanistidae - Ganges River Dolphin and Indus River Dolphin
- family Iniidae - Amazon River Dolphin
- family Pontoporiidae - Yangtze River Dolphin and La Plata Dolphin
- family Phocoenidae - Porpoises (including the spectacled porpoise)
- Mysticeti or baleen whales - blue whales, humpback whales, gray whales and right whales. These "great whales" are among the largest animals on earth. They have baleen plates instead of teeth, which they use to filter food. They are larger than the toothed whales and have two blow holes.
- Family Eschrichtiidae - the gray whale is the only bottom feeder. As it swims along the bottom of the ocean stirring up sediment, it takes the nutrient-rich murky water into its mouth, and forces it out through its short baleen, retaining tiny organisms.
- Family Balaenopteridae (the rorqual whales; rorqual is Norwegian for furrow) - Blue Whale, Humpback Whale, Sei Whale, Fin Whale, Bryde's Whale, Minke Whale. These whales have 25-100 parallel throat grooves that extend from the throat to the flippers. When they eat, these grooves expand, allowing them to take huge gulps of water, forcing it through their short baleen to filter out tiny organisms. They have long, sleek bodies and a small dorasla fin.
- Family Balaenidae - the Northern and Southern Right Whales, Bowhead Whale. Right whales swim along the surface open-mouthed, skimming the water with long baleen. They have no dorsal fin, no throat grooves, and a huge, arched jaw.
- Family Neobalaenidae - Pygmy Right Whale
- Archaeoceti - the extinct whales, which includes Basilosaurus, the primitive Eocene whale.
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