Saturday, October 11, 2014

Order: Cetacean

The Cetaceans are some of the more fascinating mammals. An existence in the water makes them seem otherworldly, and yet, they may be some of the most intelligent beings on the planet. What must that be like? Here are my top ten:

10. Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus)

Not a particularly beautiful or fascinating animal, unless you consider that they’re the largest creature in the history of creation. And, lest you think taxonomists lack a sense of humor, their species name means “little mouse.”

9. Bowhead Whale (Balaena mysticetus

This is one of the lesser known large whales. It lives it’s life in the extreme environment of the arctic ice. It’s head is huge!

8. Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae

This is the rock star of the cetaceans. It is a little cliché to like them, but there is a reason everybody does.

7. Killer Whale (Orcinus orca

Another popular choice. They may be the most awe inspiring animal I have ever seen.

6. Tonina or Chilean Dolphin (Cephalorhynchus eutropia

One of four or five species of dolphins that live in southern South America, and one that I’ve seen in person. Watching a dolphin play along as you ride in a boat is highly recommended.

5. Dusky Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus

This is the other species I have observed in the wild. I would see them often in the Strait of Magellan as we would drive up and down the coastline.

4. Commerson’s Dolphin (Cephalorhynchus commersonii

This is the species I didn’t see in the Strait, but really wish I had. They are, in my opinion, the second most beautiful Cetacean.

3. Hourglass Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus crucigar

And this is the most beautiful. They are very rarely encountered, so I don’t feel bad having never seen one. Only six complete specimens have ever been seen.

2. Narwhal (Monodon monoceros

A little known fact: these are not real. They a a fairy-tale creature. Any pictures you find tend to be drawings or photo-shopped. OK, that claim may not be true, but seems more plausible than this animal.

1. Vaquita (Phocoena sinus

The smallest of all cetaceans, and a porpoise. I am not the biggest fan of porpoises, but this guy tops my list because it is special. It is currently one of the most endangered species on the planet. Only around 100 are thought to be alive, and it will likely be the next cetacean to go extinct. (The last one is thought to be the Chinese River Dolphin, which was last seen in 2006.)

(All pictures are from Wikipedia, accept for the Vaquita pic up at the very top.)

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