We're used to seeing mammals crawling, scurrying, running and walking all over the land alongside us, but there are a good deal of them who hang out in the water, too. From whales to dolphins to seals there are plenty of not exactly fuzzy but still warm-blooded creatures in the surf living some pretty unique lives. Because of their unique nature, the mammals of the sea are actually remarkably different than any of the animals you'll find on the land currently, or even in the past. The largest creatures that have ever lived came from the sea and that's kind of awesome when you think about it.
Most people never get to experience aquatic mammals firsthand. We only know them from videos or maybe an aquarium visit. In rare cases, we get to see them firsthand when we're out on a boat. It's hard not to be in awe of a massive humpback whale or a playful dolphin, especially when you consider how smart these animals are. Even if you have never seen one in person, you hopefully know a bit about them. Maybe even enough to identify all of the sea-faring mammals in this quiz. One way to find out!
This beastly creature is the largest animal on earth. Do you know what it's called?
Blue whales are not just the largest species of whale, they're the largest species of anything. A blue whale can exceed 100 feet in length and weigh over 150 tons, which means, at an average weight of 200 pounds, you'd need 1,500 adult men to equal the weight of one blue whale.
It may look like a whale but this curious animal isn't from the same family at all. Can you tell us what it is?
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The Irrawaddy Dolphin is an odd-looking creature that could probably pass for a beluga whale in a pinch. They're usually remarkably slow swimmers but can zip up to about 25 mph when they're feeling threatened.
What do you call this tusked animal that looks kind of like an old man?
Walruses can be found in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic regions which represent the three subspecies of the animal. An adult male walrus can weigh around 4,000 pounds and about 12 pounds of that could be nothing but tusk.
Do you know the name of this creature which, even though it spends much of its time on land, is still often considered semi-aquatic?
The polar bear is the largest land predator in North America and also the largest of the bear species. They are terrestrial creatures but they're well adapted to the water and have huge, paddle-like paws that help them swim.
Tell us the name of this animal known for the songs they sing.
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Humpback whales are one of the larger whale species, often measuring up to 60 feet and over 40 tons. Despite that huge size, they're pretty agile and even acrobatic. Whale watching tours exist just so you can see these massive beasts leaping out of the water.
The male of this species has two, tusk-like teeth. What is it?
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Blainville's beaked whale was named by French zoologist Henri de Blainville. Like most beaked whales these animals aren't all that well-studied so many of their habits aren't well known but they do tend to have large, barnacle-encrusted teeth.
It's possible you know a song about a baby one of these animals.
Beluga whales are a common sight at aquariums around the world as they're one of the smallest whale species. They're also very social animals and will travel in groups where they click and whistle frequently at one another, communicating whatever it is whales need to communicate.
Head up north if you want to find this large animal. What's it called?
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Bowhead Whales are one of the largest whale species and can clock in at 100 tons. They have the thickest blubber of any whale species in the world which can get up to a staggering 19 inches in some places.
Next to the blue whale, this is the largest species in the sea. Tell us what it is!
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At 90 feet long and 100 tons, fin whales don't have a lot of things to worry about in the sea aside from humans. Unlike some species, fin whales don't often travel in large groups and can be found either in very small pods or even alone.
This may look a lot like a manatee but it's not technically a manatee, and if that's the case, what is it?
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Dugongs and manatees are very closely related but not quite the same animal. How do you tell the difference between the two? There are a few ways but the easiest and most noticeable is the tail. A dugong tail looks almost like a dolphin's tail while manatees have more of a rudder-like tail.
What's the name of this animal that stays near coastal areas?
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The harbor porpoise gets its name from its tendency to stay in and around harbors. Full grown they're about the size of an adult male human, measuring about 6 feet long and 200 pounds or so. In this species, the females get a bit bigger than males.
Do you recognize this pointy-snouted creature that turns pink when it becomes an adult?
The Amazon river dolphin or "pink river dolphin," as it's sometimes called, is the largest river dolphin species in the world, even though it's rather small compared to whales. Not all river dolphins are pink. They can appear in an array of colors including gray, yellow and brown.
To stay warm in cold water this creature has the densest coat in the animal kingdom. Do you know what it is?
The sea otter is the largest member of the weasel family and can almost get up to 100 pounds. They have no blubber to keep them warm and rely exclusively on their incredible fur which grows at a density of nearly one million hairs per square inch.
This little creature is very nearly extinct. What is it called?
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Vaquita means "little cow" and these relatively tiny animals are sadly not nearly as plentiful as cows. There are no solid numbers on vaquita population right now but it's believed there are literally only a couple dozen of these animals in the world.
What do you call this creature that ranges from California up to Alaska and Russia?
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Stellar's sea lion is one of several different sea lion species that are very similar to seals but not quite the same thing. If you can't tell the difference between a seal and a sea lion at first glance, look for the ears. Sea lions have them and seals do not.
You can recognize this animal by its white, oval side panels. Do you know its name?
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Dall's porpoises live in the North Pacific and are fairly widely hunted. Though they are not listed as endangered, there is a lot of international attention to the hunts that allow for the killing of these animals as they're also greatly at risk as by-catch from salmon fishing.
This animal was sometimes called the"anchovy whale." What other name does it go by?
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Bryde's whale is closely related to the sei whale and the two are often confused with one another. In Japan, these whales used to be called anchovy whales because they tended to hunt a lot of anchovy in that part of the world.
Do you know the name of this animal that was nearly hunted to extinction for its oil?
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Gray whales are a large species that can get to be about 50 feet and 40 tons. A female gray whale has been credited with the world's longest round-trip migration after it traveled more than 13,600 miles in 2015.
This may be the most well-known marine mammal in the world, so you can probably tell us what it is, right?
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Bottlenose dolphins are one of the most recognizable animals in the world. They're known for their intelligence and their playfulness as well as their unusual curiosity which makes them eager to approach human every so often.
Name this animal that has a brain five times heavier than yours.
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The sperm whale gets its name from the organ in its head that produces a white, waxy substance that was mistaken for sperm by early sailors. These animals are known to have the largest brains of any creature on earth which can weigh up to 17 pounds.
What's the proper name of this animal that's sometimes called a "dwarf fin whale?"
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Omura's whale is a fairly rare and poorly studied whale relative to other species. It's also considered small at a mere 38 feet which, compared to the blue whale technically is pretty tiny overall.
In 2017 the population of this species had risen to over 6,000. Do you know what it is?
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The West Indian manatee is also called the American manatee and it's the chubby critter you'll find off the coast of Florida. Rumor has it that, ages ago, when sailors thought they saw mermaids in the surf they may have actually just been seeing these creatures.
The Center for Biological Diversity says that this is the most endangered whale on Earth. What is it?
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Population estimates put the entire species of North Pacific Right Whales at around 100 animals or less. They were historically hunted for their meat and oil and their baleen, which is the filter system in their mouths. People used to make corsets out of them.
Next to the pygmy blue whale, this is the smallest kind of baleen whale in the sea. What is it?
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Minke whales only grow to a length of about 30 feet which is small for baleen whales. Like many whales, they were aggressively hunted for a time and are now a protected species, though that still hasn't stopped some people from killing them.
What's the name of this animal that can blow up a large sac on its head?
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The hooded seal gets its name from the large bladder on the head of the males that hangs down between its eyes. It's not even the only weird sac on this animal as it can also inflate one out of its nostril as well.
They call this animal a whale but it's actually a dolphin. What is it?
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The melon-headed whale is, in fact, a dolphin despite the name. It does have a bit of a round, cone-like head that could pass for a melon if you changed the color of it, hence the unfortunate name it's been saddled with.
Do you know the name of this whale, which is one of the fastest in the sea?
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The sei whale can grow to be around 30 tons but can still motor along at about 30 miles per hour when it needs to. What's it take to keep an animal this size going at that speed? About 2,000 pounds of food each and every day.
You probably recognize this apex predator from movies. What is it?
Few mammals in the sea are as well known as the orca. It's been immortalized in film sometimes as a villain as in the movie "Orca: The Killer Whale" but more often as a sympathetic creature like in "Free Willy" and "Blackfish."
Scientifically speaking this is not actually the unicorn of the sea but never mind that. Tell us what it is!
Dr. Kristin Laidre, Polar Science Center, UW NOAA/OAR/OER
Narwhals are a very popular species of whale thanks in part to their very unusual appearance which includes what looks like a single, long horn poking out of their head. In fact, it is not a horn at all but one long tooth that grows from inside the whale's mouth and pushes through from the inside. Some even have two.
This animal looks a bit like a cross between a shark and a dolphin. Name it!
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False killer whales don't actually look that much like killer whales but internally they do, specifically the shape of their skulls, which is where the name comes from. Also despite the menacing name, they're pretty sociable animals.
If you head to Antarctica you might run across this animal and hopefully, you'll know its name. Do you?
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Crabeater seals are found in the Antarctic and for reasons that only a marine biologist can explain doesn't actually eat crabs. The seal's diet is almost entirely made up of krill, which it can filter through its teeth.
No one even knew this animal was its own species until 2011. Do you know what it is?
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The Burrunan Dolphin is found in Australia and was officially recognized as a species in 2011. The reason it wasn't recognized for so long is mostly that it's only been identified in two locations with a population of about 150.
You'll definitely notice something odd about this animal's appearance, even if it doesn't click at first. What is it called?
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The finless porpoise might look like a typical porpoise at first glance but the lack of a fin makes it stand out more than any other member of the species. That distinctive back fin that so many aquatic creatures have is missing.
Do you know the name of this especially acrobatic animal?
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Spinner dolphins get their name from their interesting and pretty cool ability to spin like a corkscrew as they jump out of the water. At their best, a spinner dolphin can actually pull off over 5 full rotations before landing back in the water again.
Way down near the Antarctic is where you need to go to find this very rare creature that looks like a mini killer whale. Name it!
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The hourglass dolphin is a small species of dolphin that only grows to about four feet in length. They were first recognized as a species in 1824 based on someone else's drawing of one rather than any real-life identification.
Despite being an aquatic mammal this creature spends more of its time on the land. What is it?
Galapagos fur seals are one of the smallest species of seal with adult males coming in at about 5 feet in length while the females are about a foot shorter. Unlike many seal species, the Galapagos spends as much as 70% of its time on the land.
This creature is the largest marine mammal that isn't a whale. Do you know what it is?
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The Southern elephant seal is one massive customer as far as marine mammals go. A bull male can weigh nearly 9,000 pounds and grow to a length of nearly 19 feet. The largest on record was 22.5 feet in length and was weighed in pieces at about 11,000 pounds.
Can you name this animal that is often found swimming with tuna?
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Pantropical spotted dolphins are a relatively unknown species but they did gain some prominence years ago as part of a conservation effort. Because the dolphins swim with tuna so often, literally millions of them were dying when they were caught up in tuna fishing nets.
This looks like a small whale but it's actually a big dolphin. Do you know what it is?
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Long-finned pilot whales have long, sickle-shaped fins which is where the name comes from. Even though they're called whales, they're actually a very large species of dolphin and can grow to be over 20 feet in length.
These adorable little guys are hunted very controversially in Norway and Canada. What are they?
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Harp seals are famously the face of the controversial seal hunts in Canada. The pups are fluffy, white little critters that are as cute as a bug's ear. Despite worldwide protests, there are government regulated hunts for them every year.
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