Daily Herald
You wanted to know: Why do whales have a spout?
By Hope Babowice | Daily Herald Columnist
Published: 7/21/2010 12:00 AM

Check this out

The Grayslake Area Public Library District and the Vernon Area Public Library District recommend these book titles on whales:

• "Do Whales Have Belly Buttons?," by Melvin Berger;

• "Secret of the Sleepless Whales," by Ana Maria Rodriguez;

• "Whales! Strange and Wonderful," by Laurence Pringle;

• "I Didn't Know That Whales Can Sing," by Kate Petty;

• "Do Whales Have Wings?," by Michael Dahl;

• "Whales: A Visual Introduction to Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises," by Bernard Stonehouse;

• "The Migration of a Whale," by Tanya Kant;

• "Whales," by Gail Gibbons; and

• "Peggony-Po: A Whale of a Tale," by Andrea Davis Pinkney

You wanted to know

A student in Ms. Forker's class at Matigian PreSchool in Libertyville asked: "How do whales spray water out of their spout, and why do they have a spout?"

Noses have similarities and differences across the animal kingdom. You already know that human noses have two nostrils, are located on the front of the face and are used for breathing and for smelling.

An elephant's nose is its trunk, which is used for breathing, smelling and as an extra arm to high-five other elephants and point baby elephants in the right direction. It also can be used as a shower nozzle to spray water on themselves or other elephants.

Dog noses are wet and that helps them to be terrific trackers.

A whale's nose is a giant hole on the top of its head called a blowhole. David Koontz of Seaworld San Diego said, "Whales do have nostrils that are modified into either a single or double blowhole that is used for breathing."

Some whales can use their blowholes for smelling, although not all whale species have an olfactory system. Since whales echolocate - use their voices as sonar to identify things in their paths and to navigate - they don't really need the sense of smell in the form of an olfactory system.

Whales can use their blowholes to make dramatic entrances as they break through the water's surface.

"When they come to the surface, they exhale before they inhale new air," said Ken Ramirez, executive vice president of animal collections and training at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. "When they let the air out of their lungs, it comes out really fast and all of the water that is on top of their head near the blowhole is sprayed into the air. It looks like the whale is spouting water, but actually the water that you see is just the water that was near their blowhole when they came up for a breath of air."

The Shedd Aquarium recently announced the winning name for its newest beluga whale, Nunavik. The 6-month-old 400-pound baby has been on view at the aquarium since it was a little over a month old.