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Order: Cetacea (Odontoceti, Mysticeti)

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All whales, dolphins and porpoises are cetaceans, which have two categories: toothed and baleen (toothless). Cetaceans live solely in the water and cannot survive on land. The main propulsion for any cetacean is his rear flippers, which are so large they are no longer considered just flippers, but are called "flukes." All marine mammals are in either Order Carnivora, Order Sirenia or Order Cetacea, which has two suborders:

ODONTOCETI (toothed)

  • dolphins, porpoises, narwhal, and some whales (beluga, sperm, beaked)
  • number of teeth vary by species
  • some teeth have no apparent role
  • all breathe via a blowhole
  • example: Beluga whale, sperm whale, West Indian manatee

MYSTICETI (baleen)

  • no teeth
  • instead of teeth, uses hundreds of closely-spaced baleen plates to filter incoming water into their body for small fish and plankton, which the whale swallows whole without chewing
  • like their toothed-whale cousins, baleen whales breathe via a blowhole
  • example: blue whale, humpback whale
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