Whales are among the largest and oldest animals on Earth. They can be found in every ocean and range in size from the small dwarf sperm whale to the massive blue whale, the largest animal on the planet. Whales belong to a group of marine mammals called cetaceans. Marine mammals in the cetacean family include whales, dolphins, and porpoises.

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Close up image of baleen sheets from a whale's mouth
Baleen is a filter-feeding system inside the mouths of baleen whales.

There are two types of cetaceans: baleen and toothed. Baleen whales, or Mysticetes, have baleen plates which sieve prey, like krill, from the water. Toothed whales, or Odontocetes, have teeth and feed on fish, squid, and other marine mammals such as seals and sea lions.

Together with our partners, we work to ensure the conservation of whales which are all protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and protect and recover those that are listed under the Endangered Species Act.


Species News

A harbor seal is released from a crate on a beach in New Hampshire. Several people watch from beyond the cordoned off area Release of a rehabilitated harbor seal rescued in Rye, New Hampshire by Prescott Grant recipient Seacoast Science Center. Credit: Seacoast Science Center.
Stranding Network members perform an animal autopsy on a stranded gray whale that lies within a sectioned off area of the beach. A team of scientists from The Marine Mammal Center and the California Academy of Sciences perform a necropsy on a stranded gray whale at San Francisco’s Ocean Beach. Photo: Katie D’Innocenzo/The Marine Mammal Center.

Multimedia

1024x683-pair-of-bottlenose-dolphins.jpg Pair of bottlenose dolphins. Credit: NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center/Lisa Morse.
A North Atlantic right whale with propeller scars Right whale #3853 swimming north offshore of South Carolina on Jan. 20, 2011 with a series of fresh propeller wounds running across its back. The whale was observed 5 days previously offshore of Georgia without propeller wounds. It is unknown whether the whale survived its wounds or not, as it has not been re-sighted since. Vessel collisions are a leading cause of right whale mortality. Credit: EcoHealth Alliance (NOAA permit #594-1759).
Photograph from the North Atlantic right whale Catalog #3560 of "Snow Cone," a North Atlantic right whale sighted December 2, 2021 that was entangled in gear and with a new calf. Photo credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission taken under NOAA permit 20556. North Atlantic right whale Catalog #3560 ‘Snow Cone’ sighted December 2, 2021 entangled and with a new calf. Photo credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission taken under NOAA permit 20556.

Research

Peer-Reviewed Research

Retrospective analysis of measures to reduce large whale entanglements in a lucrative commercial fishery

Marine mammal bycatch is a significant anthropogenic threat to recovering populations. Gear…

Peer-Reviewed Research

An Unknown Nocturnal Call Type in the Mariana Archipelago

In spring/summer of 2018 and 2021, the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center Cetacean Research…

Peer-Reviewed Research

Publications by Northeast Passive Acoustic Research Staff

Our staff regularly publish their findings in scientific journals and Center-produced documents…

Peer-Reviewed Research

Beaked Whale Dive Cycle Estimation Based on Acoustic Data From Drifting Recording Systems

Our acoustic-only estimation method opens the door to obtaining estimates for many species.

Understanding Marine Mammal Protections

Learn how NOAA Fisheries protects all marine mammals under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Pod of killer whales.