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- The are all part of the group elasmobranchs.
- There skeletons are made up of cartilage rather than bone.
- They have rows of replaceable teeth.
- The have 5-7 gill slits to breath underwater with.
- The first elasmobranchs evolved at least 400 million years ago.
- They use a highly developed sense to detect changes in electricity around them in order to hunt efficiently. The ampullae of Lorenzini allow elasmobranchs do detect these electric fields.
“Because elasmobranchs generally grow slowly, reproduce late in life, and have only a small number of children, they have trouble recovering from population decline caused by humans. As a result, many elasmobranchs around the world are endangered.”
Reference: Encyclopedia of Life
First of all, there are two types of whales, toothed whales (whales that use teeth to grab their prey, usually) and baleen whales (large whales that hunt small prey and use baleen plates for filter feeding).
The most common WHALE visitor to Virginia Beach is the bottlenose dolphin, a toothed whale. They are seen year round but most frequently in the summer. Other regular Virginia Beach visitors include the common dolphin, harbor porpoise, humpback whale and fin whale. So that makes five common whale visitors!
HOWEVER, during the winter months, in addition to the humpback and fin whales, right whales, minke whales and sei whales are baleen whales that have also been spotted off our coast. The North Atlantic right whale is the most endangered whale species on earth with only about 400 individuals left.
Virginia Beach toothed whale visitors other than the bottlenose dolphin, harbor porpoise and common dolphin include striped dolphins, white sided dolphins, Risso’s dolphins, pygmy sperm whales and even killer whales. Most of these marine mammals are found far offshore and are rarely seen by beach goers.
So the right answer is somewhat debatable, but you could say that there are up to 25 species of whale that have been known to occur off the Virginia coast! (And guess what? We have four species of seals here too!)
If you would like to take a closer look at some of Virginia’s coastal marine mammal visitors, check out the Virginia Aquarium’s Sea Adventures for whale and dolphin watching trips!
And what do humpback whales eat while they are here in Virginia? Mostly small schooling fish like menhaden, croaker and bay anchovies.