Whale Size Comparison: How Big Are the Different Whales?
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For an animal that can be smaller than some types of sharks and the largest in the entire world, it can be difficult to understand just how big different types of whales are – that's where the Whale Size Comparison Guide comes in handy.
From whales the size of three school buses to ones not much bigger than the average human being, we've put together this complete guide to show you just how big some of the biggest (and smallest) whales are compared to each other and to the average human being.
How big is a whale?
As far as whales are concerned, they vary widely in size. Whales can be as small as 8.5 feet and weigh about 300 pounds, or as large as nearly 100 feet and weigh more than 160 tons. They also hold quite a few records, including being the largest toothed predator and the largest animal that ever lived.
Each whale is unique in its own way and distinct from the other whales. However, when you're trying to decide which whale is bigger, it can be hard to keep your eyes peeled for such a diverse range of animals.
This whale size comparison guide is designed to help you understand how big different types of whales are compared to each other and even humans.
blue whale size
Just like there are many different types of whales, there are several subspecies of blue whales. Debate has raged in recent years about what exactly makes a blue whale a blue whale, and the debate continues to this day. However, at the time of writing this whale size comparison, there are currently five recognized subspecies. These include
- Antarctic blue whale ( Balaenoptera musculus intermedia )
- North Atlantic and North Pacific blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus musculus)
- Pygmy Blue Whale ( Balaenoptera musculus brevicauda )
- North Indian Ocean Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus indica)
- South Pacific blue whale ( Balaenoptera musculus unnamed species).
Antarctic blue whales aren't just the biggest blue whales, or even just the biggest whales – they're the biggest animals in the entire world! They were even bigger than most dinosaurs we know. They are known to weigh up to 330,000 pounds (165 tons), which is heavier than the entire Statue of Liberty. The largest blue whale ever recorded weighed 418,878 pounds!
However, the pygmy blue whale is the smallest blue whale. However, at nearly 80 feet long, it's still one of the largest animals around! They weigh about 116,000 pounds, which equates to about 58 tons.
sperm whale size
While sperm whales may not be the largest animals in the world, they are the largest toothed predators and come in all sizes.
Three types of sperm whales still exist in the sperm whale family, although they do not all belong to the same genus. This includes the sperm whale ( Physeter macrocephalus ) as well as the pygmy sperm whale ( Kogia breviceps ) and pygmy sperm whale ( Kogia sima ).
The largest sperm whale can reach a length of 68 feet and weigh more than 174,000 pounds. By comparison, the pygmy sperm whale measures just 11 feet and weighs about 900 pounds. The pygmy sperm whale is the smallest whale in the family, measuring only about 9 feet long and weighing no more than 600 pounds.
It can hold up to 290 dwarf sperm whales and weighs about the same as a typical sperm whale, which in turn weighs roughly the same as two 18-wheel transport trucks.
Sperm whales get most of their size and weight from their heads, which make up 33 percent of their bodies. In fact, that's what their species names mean, with "macro" referring to the large size and "cephalus" referring to the head.
Whale watchers will know this whale well. Known for breaching and other eye-catching surface antics, humpbacks are one of the most famous types of whales out there. It is also one of the largest whales outside of the blue whale family.
Surprisingly, female humpbacks are slightly larger than males—not unheard of among mammals, but not common. The largest one ever encountered had a total length of 62 feet – eight times the size of the average artificial Christmas tree. Her pectoral fins alone are 20 feet long, half the length of a utility pole.
On average, however, humpbacks reach a maximum length of between 46 and 52 feet. They can reach an average maximum weight of 80,000 pounds, about the same as a firetruck.
killer whale size
The killer whale is another toothed predator, although it is not as large as the sperm whale. Males are larger than females, often only growing to 26 feet long and weighing up to 12,000 pounds. This weight is only slightly lighter than a helicopter, but makes them 13 times larger than a pygmy sperm whale.
The largest orca ever recorded weighed approximately 22,000 pounds and was 32 feet long!
The dorsal fin of male orcas is almost twice as large as that of females, and can grow up to 5.9 feet tall. This means that if you stand on their back, their dorsal fin is likely to be taller than yours!
Human and Whale Size Comparison
So how do these whales stack up against humans?
Even after one of the smallest whales, the pygmy sperm whale, humans are still no match. Even at the lower end of the size range, these whales are 8 to 8.5 feet long and weigh 400 pounds. The world's tallest man, Sultan Kösen, stands at just 8.2 feet (for reference) and weighs only about 300 pounds.
As for the Antarctic blue whale, the heart alone is enough for human habitation. Their hearts weigh up to 400 pounds (the same as a small sperm whale) and are as big as a bumper car. Many museums even have replicas that humans can crawl and explore.
Humpback whales have the largest pectoral fins in the ocean. They are about 20 feet long, almost four times the height of an average person. You don't have to worry too much about them swallowing you whole, though, because at rest their throats are about the size of your fist, and not much bigger than that.
While killer whale teeth may not be the largest in the ocean, their teeth can still grow to around 3 inches. The average human tooth is only 0.4 inches, which makes orca teeth almost ten times longer.
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