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The massive and awe-inspiring mammals have long played a vital role in the lives of coastal peoples around the world. Drawn from the Museum’s rich archives and collections, the resources below include the story of the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life’s beloved blue whale, video about the rarest whales on Earth, and Antarctic explorer Herbert Ponting’s chilling account of being hunted by a pod of killer whales. 

Support for the development of Science Topics was generously provided by Sidney and Helaine Lerner, GRACE Communications Foundation.


Andrewsarchus, "Superb Skull of a Gigantic Beast"

In 1923, in Inner Mongolia, a young paleontological assistant on a fossil-finding expedition came upon “the superb skull of a gigantic beast,” as expedition leader Roy Chapman Andrews described it. 


The Blue Whale

At 94 feet long, the fiberglass replica of a female blue whale is a Museum treasure. Blue whales have been hunted to near extinction. Today, the Museum's blue whale serves as a reminder of our responsibility to our environment, both on land and in the sea.


Rubber Blubber Gloves

What keeps whales and walruses warm in bone-chilling water? One thing is the thick layer of fat under their skin, called blubber. Blubber acts as insulation between the animal's inner organs and the chilly ocean.

Beluga Whales

Beluga Whales Endangered in Alaska

Concerned about a population crash in the smallest beluga whale group in Alaskan waters, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) listed the belugas in Anchorage's Cook Inlet as endangered under the Endangered Species Act on October 22, 2008.

Beaked Whale

The Most Uncommon Whales?

Most of us know about blue whales, sperm whales, and dolphins (a type of specialized whale). But what about beaked whales, an elusive group that includes nearly a quarter of all living whale species?


Whales Give Dolphins a Lift

Many species interact in the wild, most often as predator and prey. But recent encounters between humpback whales and bottlenose dolphins reveal a playful side to interspecies interaction.

Ancient DNA Reveals

Ancient DNA Reveals Arctic Whale Mysteries

A team of researchers has published the first range-wide genetic analysis of the bowhead whale—a baleen whale that lives in Arctic and sub-Arctic waters—using hundreds of samples from both modern populations and archaeological sites used by indigenous hunters thousands of years ago.

Leg Up On Whale

Getting a Leg Up on Whale and Dolphin Evolution

When the ancestors of living cetaceans--whales, dolphins and porpoises--first dipped their toes into water, a series of evolutionary changes were sparked that ultimately nestled these swimming mammals into the larger hoofed animal group. But what happened first, a change from a plant-based diet to a carnivorous diet, or the loss of their ability to walk?


Whales Tour

Find whales-related artifacts on display in halls around the Museum on a special Whales tour.

Herbert Ponting

The Great White South by Herbert Ponting

During his lifetime, Herbert G. Ponting was widely known in England as a world traveler, master photographer, travel writer, and lecturer.


Humpback Whale Journal

Preserving humpbacks is no fluke! For centuries, humans have hunted humpback whales. There are only about 35,000 humpbacks left in the world.


Sperm Whale and Giant Squid

The squid and whale diorama depicts a sperm whale clashing with its prey, a giant squid. The giant squid had never been seen in its natural habitat until 2005, when researchers got footage of an adult giant squid in the wild.

Rarest Whale on Earth Identified in New Zealand

Rarest Whale on Earth

Approximately 78 species of whales inhabit the ocean, but a number of these species remain elusive. Beaked whales are deep-sea feeders that surface briefly and discreetly; they are seldom seen, and only a handful of specimens have ever been recovered for study.


Time-lapse video of Whale Cleaning at the Museum

The Museum’s 94-foot-long blue whale received a good scrub earlier this week. Visitors who didn’t make it to the Museum’s Milstein Hall of Ocean Life on Wednesday to see the cleaning, missed the live stream on, or want to see it again can check out the time lapse video above.

Whale Ancestry

Onto Land and Back: Dr. Maureen O'Leary Studies Whale Evolution

Consider these enormous, intelligent animals. They're mammals, but they abandoned dry land over 50 million years ago to recolonize the sea. And they look nothing like the land ancestors they left behind.

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