Giants of the Ocean: Whale Facts

Learn more about the variety of whales living in oceans worldwide

Whales live in all the world’s oceans, communicating through complex and beautiful sounds. And they’re massive; the blue whale can weigh as much as 200 tons, making it the largest animal on the planet.

At the top of the food chain, whales play a vital role in the overall health of the environment. WWF documents and protects critical feeding and breeding areas, and migration routes of whales. We also help shift shipping lanes to limit noise and other disruptions for whales and other marine species.

WWF also works to end commercial whaling, which is conducted by countries such as Japan and Iceland in violation of a ban by the International Whaling Commission.

Take a look at some of these fascinating creatures:

Beluga Whale
The beluga—the extremely sociable whale of the Arctic—lives, hunts and migrates in pods. Its bulbous forehead, called a melon, can change shape to allow the whale to make different facial expressions.


Blue Whale
The blue whale is the largest animal on the planet, weighing in at as much as 200 tons—approximately 33 elephants. It’s also the loudest animal on Earth; its calls reach 188 decibels, which is louder than a jet engine.


Gray Whale
The gray whale migrates 12,000 miles round-trip from the frigid waters of the Arctic where it feeds to the tepid waters of the US and Mexico where it breeds. WWF supports a gray whale research team in the Gulf of California’s San Ignacio Lagoon—one of the best places in the world to see gray whales with their calves.


Bowhead Whale
The bowhead whale is often associated with Arctic ice floes. The species’ movement patterns are influenced by the melting and freezing of ice. They can use their thick skulls and powerful bodies to burst through at least seven inches of ice. WWF is working to minimize ocean noise pollution from offshore oil and gas exploration and increased Arctic shipping.


Humpback Whale
The humpback whale is famous for its song. Male humpbacks produce a long series of calls that are normally heard during the winter breeding season. The whales may repeat the song for several hours.


Right Whale
The right whale sports white calluses on its head, which stand out against the species’ dark gray body. Weighing up to 70 tons, the right whale feeds by swimming through a swarm of plankton with its mouth open and its head slightly above the surface.


Sperm Whale
The sperm whale generally lives out in the open sea, usually in marine waters deeper than 1,000 meters that are not covered by ice. They feed primarily on deep-water squid.

Learn more about whales.