Tailless whale spotted off Newport Beach, in California

According to experts, a whale's tail is a very important body part, but it's not the first time a whale has lost its tail and managed to do without it

by Lorenzo Ciotti
SHARE
Tailless whale spotted off Newport Beach, in California

A tailless gray whale has been spotted off the coast of California near Newport Beach. The whale swam at a normal speed, despite the absence of a tail, which means that it has learned to adapt to swim. Despite its injury, the whale appears to be in good condition.

According to experts, a whale's tail is a very important body part, but it's not the first time a whale has lost its tail and managed to do without it. The gray whale lost its tail years ago after becoming entangled in fishing tackle.

The tail is a very important part of a whale's body, used to propel water and help the whale move forward. The movement of the tail is controlled by a huge muscular system which makes up about a third of the weight of the whale.

Without a tail, the whale has to rely on other parts of its body to swim, such as its pectoral fins and dorsal musculature. Without a functioning tail, the whale cannot swim at full speed, cannot dive deep for food, and may have difficulty migrating the long distances whales usually cover.

Despite this, some whales have managed to adapt and continue swimming despite the loss of their tails. Equipped with its own characteristics that distinguish it from whales properly so called and from fin whales, it is the only species of the Eschrichtiidae family, being able to reach a total length of 15 meters.

Traditional classifications have always considered this family as the least evolved of the baleen whales, as it retains both ancestral characters, i.e. the 5 fingers on the flippers and the 7 cervical vertebrae all separated from each other, which respectively characterize the balenids and balenopterids.

This hypothesis would also be confirmed by the habit, absent in the other species, of approaching the coasts considerably, to the point of penetrating even shallow inlets and bays: this behavior is precisely interpreted by some ethologists as a sort of still existing bond with the mainland.

It should be noted that these Cetaceans have two rows of sparse hairs on their chin, although invisible to the eye: another characteristic which denotes how adaptation to aquatic life in this group is not complete. In the mid-19th century it was a common sight during the winter to see dozens and dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of gray whales swimming every day along the western coasts of North America as far south as California.

The gray whale's massive migration begins in December and ends around February, when the whales reverse course and return to the cold waters of the North Pacific and Arctic Seas. Here the gray whale stays during the spring, feeding mainly on small marine crustaceans, which are particularly abundant in cold waters.

The gray whale, like all baleen whales, swallows large quantities of water together with the small organisms that live in it, then pushes it out of the mouth filtering it through the baleen, between whose fringes the small crustaceans that make up its food remain trapped.