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Following is a brief perspective on some of the whales that live in the Atlantic Ocean. Other common visitors are listed, as well as a few that are less common.

Click on Whale Type or scroll down to view more photos and info on each species: Humpback Whale | Fin Whale | Minke Whale | Northern Right Whale
Atlantic White-Sided Dolphin | Harbour Porpoise | Harbor Seal

Humpback Whale
(Megaptera novaeangliae)

cape cod bay whale watching capt john boats
p One of the whales we see is the Humpback Whale. Hunted to near extinction, the Humpback is now making a comeback. Humpback numbers are estimated to be over 15,000 today. Although it is easily recognized by its long flippers and lumpy dorsal fin, the humpback is rare throughout the world, and few people are in a position to see one. These whales were once numerous, but they are slow swimmers and were, therefore, the first species taken whenever whalers moved into a new area. It is estimated that there are over 15,000 humpbacks left in the world. This is the "singing whale"; its songs have been the subject of several recordings, but we do not know why humpbacks sing, or even how they make these eerie, haunting sounds. Humpbacks have been extensively studied in their warm water breeding areas, particularly the West Indies, Bermuda, and Hawaii.

FIN WHALES Top of Page
(Balaenoptera physalus)

cape cod bay whale watching capt john boats
cape cod bay whale watching capt john boatsThe second largest of the great whales, the fin whale reaches a maximum length of about 80 feet, and may weigh 60 tons. One of the fastest of the great whales, and has been called the "Greyhound of the Seas." The fin whale is the only asymmetrically colored mammal in the world: all fin whales are black on the right side of the lower jaw and white on the left. The reasons for this unusual symmetry are unknown, but they may have something to do with the animals feeding habits. The finner is an opportunistic feeder, eating small fishes as well as krill (small shrimp-like creatures). Fin whales used to be hunted in the Antarctic, but their numbers were so depleted that they are now protected throughout most of their range.

(Balaenoptera acutorostrata)

cape cod bay whale watching capt john boats
cape cod bay whale watching capt john boatsAt a maximum of 30 feet, the minke is the smallest of the rorquals ("grooved whales"). There are northern and southern minkes; the Northern Hemisphere type is characterized by a broad white strip on the flipper, a feature sometimes lacking in the Southern Hemisphere form. Along with larger rorquals- the blue, fin, and sei whales - southern minkes come to the Antarctic to feed in the summer. Only when he larger species become to scarce to hunt economically did the whalers go after the minke.

(Eubalaena glacialis)

cape cod bay whale watching capt john boats
cape cod bay whale watching capt john boats In 2008, Northern right whales were separated into three different species North Atlantic, North Pacific and Southern right whales.  The Southern Right whale breeds off of Patagonia.  North Atlantic right whales calve off the southeastern US (typically FL & GA).

Because it produced plentiful oil and bone, was a slow swimmer and easy to kill, and floated when dead, this animal became known as the "right" whale to hunt. Right whales are thickset, heavy animals with no dorsal fin. They have been measured at up to 60 feet, and they weigh as many tons. They have extremely long baleen plates, and feed by "skimming" through shoals of small crustaceans. The whales are born with the "callosities" on their heads and do not acquire them as they mature. In each whale the pattern of these callosities varies, making possible the the identification of individual whales. The largest breeding population of these rare whales is found off the Patagonian coast of southern Argentina, but they are protected throughout the world.

Atlantic White-sided Dolphin Top of Page
(Lagenorhynchus acutus)

pAlso known as the Atlantic White-sided Porpoise and Jumpers. They are very vissible at sea and are sometimes found in herds numbering in the hundreds. These animals seem to be wary of ships and do not ride bow waves. This species feeds on squids andf fishes. It is believed that dolphins communicate with each other; the sounds they make have been variously described as barks, growns, chirps, and whistles. They also communicate by means of body posture and by slapping their flukes on the water's surface.

Harbour Porpoise Top of Page
(Phocoena phocoena)

The harbour or common porpoise is neither common nor seen often in harbours. It has no beak, small pectoral fins rounded at the tips, small flukes, and a low, blunt dorsal fin. The stocky body is brown or dark grey on the back, often distinguished sharply from the light grey belly along the flanks. There are 23 to 28 small, spade-shaped teeth in each side of the upper jaw and 22 to 26 in each side of the lower jaw.

Harbor Seal Top of Page
(Phoca vitulina concolor)

pHarbor seals bask and sleep on coastal islands, ledges, and sandbars during low tide and forage during high tide, although high tide haulout may occur on salt marsh banks. In the water the seals may be bold and curious about human activity. The young in particular often surface next to boats, staring inquisitively.
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