How do whales breathe underwater?
  • Actually whales donít breathe underwater. They hold their breath underwater instead.
  • Whales are mammals, like us. They have lungs like us so they need to breathe air above the water like we do.
  • A whale can hold itís breath for up to half an hour under water and thatís because its lungs are huge, in comparison to ours, but when it breathes in fresh air most of its lungs are filled with air. Our lungs only partly fill with air.
  • Then the whale loads up its blood with oxygen and its body takes oxygen from the blood when it needs it.
  • A whale uses itís blowhole to breathe in air and when you see water spurting from a whales blowhole thatís just the water vapour from the whales lungs and any water around the blow hole being blown into the air as it breaths out.
  Did You Know?
  • If a whale is going to be underwater for a long time it slows its body down - its movements and even its heart beat so it only uses a little bit of oxygen at a time. That helps it stay underwater longer.
  • There are two main types of whales - whales with teeth and whales that donít have teeth.
  • Most of the smaller types of whales are toothed whales and they eat things like fish and squid. Killer Whales have lots of teeth and they eat things like seals and seabirds too.
  • Whales without teeth are called baleen whales and they have long baleen plates that are like vertical Venetian blinds that hang from their top jaw to their bottom jaw. They use these baleen plates to catch tiny see creatures like plankton and krill. They swim along with their mouths partly open and they taken tons of seawater at a time. Then the close their mouths and push the seawater out and their baleen plates trap all the plankton and krill.
  • The Blue Whale is the largest animal on earth. It can be as big as a jet plane, it's heart can be as big as a small car and it's tongue can be as big as an elephant! That's big!
  • Whale poo is called ambergris and is grey and light enough to float on top of the water. Sometimes you find it on the beach. It can be used in the manufacture of perfume!
Make like a whale

Next time youíre swimming in a pool with your family, or take a bath, float on your back and use your mouth as a blowhole. Take a breath and sink under the water then rise back up and exhale when your face is above the water again. See the water that rises up when you blow out of your mouth? Thatís the water that was around your mouth and thatís just like what happens when a whale exhales.
Investigate how whales hear under water

Whales use clicks, high-pitched squeaks and low moans to communicate with.
Next time youíre in a pool with your friends get them to make clicking sounds under the water while you swim round under the water. They might have to bang two pebbles together to make a sound loud enough for you to hear.
Did you hear about the sea creature that enjoyed the party?
He had a whale of a time

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