A Whale's Spout Can Tell You Its Species

A Whale's Spout Can Tell You Its Species

Experienced whale-watchers can determine a whale's species just by spotting its spout. Orcas have bushy-shaped spouts, while humpback whales' spouts are column-shaped and gray whales' spouts are heart-shaped. But there are other distinctive features that can clue in keen observers, such as a whale's dorsal fin, the number of whales in a group, and a whale's tail flukes. (Humpback whales have tail flukes that are unique to each individual!) Even splashes and ripples have something to say about the cetaceans that left them: a large gathering of ripples might mean dolphins, whereas a big splash could be a humpback's breach.

05:43

Key Facts In This Video

  • 1

    Whales release air (and sometimes mucus) from their blowholes, not water. (1:07)

  • 2

    The blowholes of sperm whales are located on the left side of the whale's head, rather than on top. (2:24)

  • 3

    Humpback whales can sneeze air at more than 300 mph. (4:39)

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