Posts tagged whale

19 posts tagged whale

Happy World Oceans Day! 
There’s no better place to celebrate and learn about the oceans diverse and complex web of life than in the fully immersive marine environment of the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life.

If you can’t make it in person, explore the website and learn about the creation of the 94-foot-long blue whale suspended from the ceiling, the oddly named whale shark, and the epic encounter between the giant squid and sperm whale.

Happy World Oceans Day!

There’s no better place to celebrate and learn about the oceans diverse and complex web of life than in the fully immersive marine environment of the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life.

If you can’t make it in person, explore the website and learn about the creation of the 94-foot-long blue whale suspended from the ceiling, the oddly named whale shark, and the epic encounter between the giant squid and sperm whale.

Odd as it may seem, a four-footed land mammal named Pakicetus,living some 50 million years ago in what we know as Pakistan today, bears the title of “first whale.”
Straddling the two worlds of land and sea, the wolf-sized animal was a meat eater that sometimes ate fish, according to chemical evidence. Pakicetus also exhibited characteristics of its anatomy that link it to modern cetaceans, a group made up of whales, porpoises, and dolphins.
See a resin cast of Pakicetus, based on fossils found in Pakistan, in Whales Giants of the Deep. 
Artist’s impression of Pakicetus attocki © Carl Buell, 2006

Odd as it may seem, a four-footed land mammal named Pakicetus,living some 50 million years ago in what we know as Pakistan today, bears the title of “first whale.”

Straddling the two worlds of land and sea, the wolf-sized animal was a meat eater that sometimes ate fish, according to chemical evidence. Pakicetus also exhibited characteristics of its anatomy that link it to modern cetaceans, a group made up of whales, porpoises, and dolphins.

See a resin cast of Pakicetus, based on fossils found in Pakistan, in Whales Giants of the Deep

Artist’s impression of Pakicetus attocki 
© Carl Buell, 2006

Although only the skull of Andrewsarchus mongoliensis has ever been found, researchers infer from the fossil’s size (nearly 3 feet long!) and evolutionary relationships that the animal was about 6 feet high at the shoulder and 12 feet long, a size that would make Andrewsarchus the largest known meat-eating land mammal that ever lived. 
Recent evolutionary analysis suggests this massive mammal is closely related to both hippos and whales, both members of a larger order of mammals called artiodactyls. Now, you can see this rarely exhibited Andrewsarchus skull in the special exhibition Whales: Giants of the Deep.
Read about the Central Asiatic Expedition, which led to the discovery of  Andrewsarchus in 1923, here.

Although only the skull of Andrewsarchus mongoliensis has ever been found, researchers infer from the fossil’s size (nearly 3 feet long!) and evolutionary relationships that the animal was about 6 feet high at the shoulder and 12 feet long, a size that would make Andrewsarchus the largest known meat-eating land mammal that ever lived. 

Recent evolutionary analysis suggests this massive mammal is closely related to both hippos and whales, both members of a larger order of mammals called artiodactyls. Now, you can see this rarely exhibited Andrewsarchus skull in the special exhibition Whales: Giants of the Deep.

Read about the Central Asiatic Expedition, which led to the discovery of  Andrewsarchus in 1923, here.

© AMNH/D. Finnin
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© AMNH/D. Finnin
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One of the most interesting “whales” on display in the American Museum of Natural History isn’t a whale at all—it’s actually the world’s largest fish.

The whale shark (Rhinodon typus), which belongs to a group of cartilaginous fishes, earns the name “whale” solely because of its size. Despite their other name—shark—these giants are so gentle that snorkelers and scuba divers seek them out to swim alongside them.

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Common dolphin (Dr. Ingrid Visser, Orca Research Trust)
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Harbor porpoise (Wikimedia/Erik Christensen)
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So what’s the difference between a whale, a dolphin, and a porpoise?

They are all cetaceans; dolphins and porpoises are actually types of specialized whales. The term “whale” is often used to refer to the large animals in the group. These can be both baleen whales (the filter feeders) and toothed whales (which hunt single prey).

Dolphins usually have a beak and always have conical teeth that taper to a fine point. Porpoises have no beak and their teeth are flat and spade-shaped.

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