From the enormous blue whale to the orcas that swim in all the oceans of the world, whale species have captivated humanity, from Herman Melville’s famous Moby Dick to Free Willy and beyond. But what do you call a baby whale?
Whales are part of a larger order that includes dolphins and porpoises, together known as the cetaceans. The cetaceans are then separated into two groups, toothed and baleen whales. Toothed whales include narwhals, dolphins, sperm, and beaked whales, and these species mostly live in social groups.
There are 11 species of baleen whale, which have two blowholes instead of one and instead of traditional teeth, have rows of baleen plates that filter krill (and, unfortunately, microplastics, out of the water during feeding. The blue whale, the largest animal on Earth, is a baleen whale.
What do you call a baby whale?
So what are the offspring called? All cetaceans are mammals, meaning that they breed sexually, reproduce by internal fertilization and give birth to live young. Occasionally whale penises show up on beaches too, and have been posited as an explanation for sea monsters.
A baby whale is called a calf. Blue whale pregnancies can last as long as a year, and newborn blue whales weigh well over 2,000 kilograms (5,000 pounds).
Other species that have young called calves include:
- Cows (though we suspect you probably knew that)
The birthing process is sometimes referred to as calving, and is the same term applied to glaciers when a piece of ice breaks off. Young dolphins and porpoises are also referred to as calves. Male humpback whales are thought to woo females by singing love songs through the ocean's waves. They may also engage in a behavior known as a heat run, when many males chase a female hoping to breed with her. These runs can last for hours, with males fighting in the process.
Whale calves unfortunately make a tasty meal for orcas, the highly intelligent murder machines of the sea. If the idea of a whale calf being eaten upsets you, find something a little more adorable by discovering what a baby beaver is called instead.