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The scientific order Cetacea is comprised of whales, dolphins, and porpoises. These aquatic creatures are the most specialized of all mammals, with adaptations that allow them to spend their entire lives in water. Living cetaceans are divided into two distinct suborders, Mysticeti and Odontoceti, which are divided further into a total of fourteen families. The Mysticeti suborder contains those whales which have baleen plates instead of teeth. A baleen whale feeds by straining water through the baleen, trapping the fish, shrimp, crustaceans, or krill inside its mouth. This suborder is comprised of the largest whale species, including the blue whale, the humpback whale, and the grey whale.
Those cetaceans classified in the suborder Odontoceti are toothed whales, dolphins, and porpoises. They are generally smaller, faster, and more agile than their baleen counterparts. Scientists have identified approximately 80 species of toothed whales, ranging in size from the 60-foot sperm whale to the five-foot harbor porpoise. The various species are incredibly diverse and display a multitude of body shapes, behavior patterns, and lifestyles. Some spend barely any time on the surface, rising occasionally to take a breath; others can leap 20 feet out of the water almost effortlessly. Some species live in the shallows close to shore, some reside in deep oceans, and still others are found only in fresh water rivers. Odontoceti may have anywhere from eight to 250 teeth (Reynolds 1999), and their eyesight ranges from poor to excellent.
Delphinidae is the largest family within the Odontoceti suborder. Scientists have discovered fossil records of ancient delphinids, which date back 11 million years. This family is composed of what we commonly call dolphins. There are over 30 different species in this family, the largest of which is the Orca, or killer whale. Delphinids are characterized by sharp, cone-shaped teeth; most (but not all) possess a falcate dorsal fin and a melon joined to a distinct beak.
If you're lucky enough to briefly spy a delphinid in its natural habitat, you may get a glimpse of a torpedo-shaped body darting smoothly through the waves, perhaps catching a free ride from the wake of your boat or peering inquisitively at you from the depths of its dark, soulful eyes. You might observe a group off in the distance, leaping high into the air or porpoising swiftly as they travel together in their search for food.
Sights such as these have moved mankind throughout our history, serving to increase our curiosity about the dolphins which share our world. Pictures of dolphins appeared in art forms as early as 1500 BC, and even the great Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC) told stories of dolphins interacting with people and described them as mammals. Our fascination with dolphins continues today, and is evident in the work of many modern artists.
Marine Biology Color
Please draw the dolphinid then color it.
Manatee Facts for Kids
This page will help you learn more about manatees.
[Learn where manatees live.]
Where do manatees live?
Manatees live in shallow, calm rivers, estuaries, bays, canals and coastal areas. Manatees can travel from fresh to salt water without any problems. The Florida manatee is found most of its time in Florida but can travel as far north as Virginia.
[Learn what manatees eat.]
What do manatees eat?
Manatees are herbivores, which means they eat only plants. This means that they do not eat any fish or crustaceans. Manatees eat mainly sea grass found on the ocean floor. To get down to the bottom easier, manatees have solid bones that help make them heavier.
[Learn about manatee size.]
How big are manatees?
When manatees are born, they are about 4 feet long and weigh 60-70 pounds. Full-grown manatees can be up to 13feet long and weigh up to 3,500 pounds!
[Learn about manatee relatives.]
Do manatees have any relatives?
Manatees are distant relatives of elephants and share some similar traits. Both manatees and elephants have a trunk, tough skin, bristle-like hair covering their body, teeth that are always replaced and “toe” nails on their feet/flippers.
[Learn how long a manatee can hold its breath.]
How long can a manatee hold its breath?
Manatees can hold their breath for about 20minutes, however they regularly breathe every few minutes.
[Learn why algae grows on manatees.]
Why does algae grow on manatees?
Manatees are slow moving and spend a lot of time at the water’s surface. Algae grows in wet areas with lots of sunlight, so a manatee’s skin is a great place for algae to live. Manatees do not seem to mind and the algae may help block out harmful rays from the sun.
Copyright 2013. Bridget Biggens. All rights reserved.