The Greek word phállaina came to Latin as ballaena, which in turn passed into Spanish as whale. The notion allows to name a marine animal of the group of cetaceans that can measure more than thirty meters in length.
The whale is the largest animal in the world. It is a mammal whose forelimbs are fins, it has a single horizontal fin and in the upper part of the head it has openings that allow it to expel air.
In his jaw, whales have baleen (also called, to equal the animal, whales). These are flexible sheets located in a pair of parallel rows, which are similar to combs. Made of keratin, whale baleen allow food to be filtered: cetaceans open their mouths when swimming to allow water to enter and then, through the action of the throat and tongue, they expel it again, leaving the food (krill, crustaceans, fish, etc.) retained.
Another peculiarity of whales is that their tail, due to its disposition, allows them to rise to the surface easily. This is very important since the whales must rise to breathe, having the possibility of being about an hour under the water.
Whales live for about thirty years and usually have only one calf each after a twelve-month gestation. These animals usually mate and have their young in warm seas and then migrate to colder waters to feed.
The southern right whale, the Greenland whale and the glacial right whale are some of the existing species of whale.
In fiction, the figure of the whale has a fairly important place, as well as that of other marine animals, such as the shark and the octopus. In this case, one of the most important stories is undoubtedly ” Moby-Dick “, written by the American author Herman Melville and published in 1851. Broadly speaking, the book tells of Captain Ahab’s voyages aboard the Pequod, a whaling ship with which he was trying to fulfill his objective of catching a large white sperm whale.
Another species that has most attracted human attention is the killer whale, which is nicknamed “killer whale”, an expression that does not represent it at all. The orca is not a whale, but a toothed cetacean that is part of the Delphinidae, the oceanic dolphin family; in fact, the genus to which they belong, called Orcinus, does not have any other species. It is the largest known dolphin in the world and has adapted to all oceans.
In 1984 a truly amazing discovery took place about whales and their abilities. A group of scientists from the National Marine Mammal Foundation of California, United States, began to notice certain strange sounds in the vicinity of the whale and dolphin tank, as if they were conversations between people, although they did not understand what they said. A few days later, everyone’s jaws dropped when a diver came out of the tank and asked who had called him: no human had spoken to him, but rather it was one of the whales, named NOC, who had learned to mimic our sounds.
NOC was a white whale that went down in history as the first to modify its speech mechanisms to imitate the human voice. It is important to understand that to carry out such a feat, he had to lower several octaves and modify the pressure of his nasal tract, among other adjustments in his muscles, since the way whales make sounds is very different from ours.