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Have you ever heard of whales having hair on their bodies?
If not, then it will be a shock to know that, yes, whales have hair on their bodies. Whales do have hair, but the number of hairs is much less than on a human.
There are few whales who have visible hairs. These include humpback whale species, baleen whales, toothed whales and bowhead whales. Whales have around 30-100 hairs on their body but have even more hair follicles. Whales, though mammals, don't have much body hair, and there are reasons behind this. In this article, let's find out in detail about what kinds of hairs whales have!
Hair on a whale's body might sound like an alien concept. However, studies have shown that whales also have hair on their body. This is not the case for all whale species. Visible hair is found in some whale species only, mainly in baleen whales. Generally, hair in whales can be seen on their head bumps and near their mouth areas. However, you won't find large amounts of hair in these areas.
Whales are mammals who live in the ocean. These marine mammals do have hair follicles, even if they do not have visible hair. Hair is common in land mammals. Almost all mammals that live on land have fur on their bodies. We humans don't have thick hair or fur on our bodies, but still, we have visible hairs on our hands and legs. Body hair in humans has become vestigial, but in other mammals, like cats and dogs, it serves a very important function. The most important duty of stiff hairs or fur is to keep the body warm. Fur traps air in it and works as an insulator of heat. This keeps the body warm. Marine mammals like whales have a fat layer, knowns as blubber, for keeping them warm in the water. That's why they require no fur.
However, because hair is common in mammals, whales also have some hair. It is believed that all whales have hair follicles but don't grow actual hairs. Marine biologists have found hair on some whale species. One of which is the humpback whale. Humpback whales have bumps on their head areas, which are called tubercles. On those bumps (called tubercles), they have one hair follicle, which gives rise to a single hair. There is no exact information available on what these hairs are for, but experts say that these hairs help humpbacks to sense prey and prey density. Some also say that these hairs help in sensing water currents and disturbances. Other cetaceans, like toothed whales, also have hairs near their snout area when they are born. After birth, they gradually lose those hairs. Another whale that has hair is the baleen whale. Baleen whales have a hair-like substance, which is known as baleen, in the place of teeth. They use it to catch their prey. These are some places on a whale's body where hair can be seen.
The direct answer to this question is yes! All mammals have hair on their bodies. Some mammal species have too much hair growth on their bodies, some have intermediate hair growth, while some have very little hair growth, and the number of hairs can be counted. Cetaceans fall in this last category.
Most mammals have significant hair. However, mammals like whales are not at all hairy. Adult whales are somewhat hairless, and there are only a few species on whom hair can be seen. Apart from whales, hair can be seen on dolphins. Dolphins are also mammals and have hairs on their rostrum when born. With time, they lose their hair and never grow it back. Other than cetaceans, all other mammals grow an amount of hair on their body. Hairs protect the skin from sun damage and also act as a sensory organ. Whiskers in cat species are an example of this.
Whales are huge marine mammals, and their body parts include a huge head, a body, two flippers and a caudal fin or tail. Whales are carnivorous animals in nature, and because of that, they have a set of teeth in their mouth. To date, there has been no hair found on or near whale teeth.
Having hair on teeth sounds very disgusting right? Well, there are no whales found that have hair on their teeth or even near their teeth. However, if the question changes to whether whales have hair in the place of teeth, then the answer would be yes. Baleen whales don't have actual teeth in their mouths. Instead, they have baleen, a hair-like structure made of keratin. They use their baleen to catch their prey, mainly small fishes and shrimps. Many people ask this question about marine mammals having hair. Actually, there are very few species of marine mammals who have hair, and the hairs they have are less in number and can be counted easily. Killer whales or orcas also have hair, but only a few, which they lose gradually.
Whales having hair on their bodies sounds a bit surprising, but the fact is that, yes, whales do have hair on their bodies. All whales have hair follicles on certain parts of their bodies but might not grow actual hair. Very few whales have visible hairs on their skin. Because whales are marine animal species, they don't need hair.
Whales don't have thick body hair, and there are reasons behind them not having hair. Hair in land mammals helps in various ways. It keeps skin protected from the Sun, and thick hair or fur keeps the body warm. But the fur needs to be dry in order to keep the body warm. Land mammals can easily keep their fur dry, and water mammals who spend a significant time on land, like otters, can also maintain their fur. Whales are mammals that never leave the ocean. In order to keep warm, fur needs to be dry, which is impossible in the ocean. Moreover, having body hair would reduce their speed underwater by increasing friction. Because of this, whales wouldn't be able to swim freely. That's why all whales have hair follicles but not actual hair on their bodies. It is also why whales have blubber to keep them warm.
However, some whales have hair on their body. Not all whales have bumpy skin. The humpback whale species has one single hair on each bump on its head. In and near hair follicles, there are several nerves, and these nerves help humpbacks to sense their surroundings. Ballen whales also have hair-like structures inside their mouths. Whales have no significant number of hairs on their body, and that's why they (cetaceans) are considered to be animals with almost no hair.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked learning about whether whales have hair, then why not take a look at our articles on the smallest snake or nine amazing facts on snake skin?
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