Orca breaching near Morro Bay, courtesy of Mike Baird
Gray Whale Near Shipwreck Point
Minke Whale, by John Calambokidis
Dolphins, courtesy of Laskeek Bay Conservation Society
Humpback tail fluke, courtesy of Erin Falcone
Watch for whales, dolphins and porpoises all along The Whale Trail! Depending where you are and when you’re watching, you might see one or more species.
Whales, dolphins and porpoises share certain characteristics that group them in the scientific order Cetacea. They have two front flippers, and their tails are uniquely shaped into two horizontal extensions called flukes, which provide tremendous swimming power.
The best way to spot cetaceans is by their blows (or spouts), dorsal fins, tail flukes and surface behaviors. The shape of the blow can help identify which species you are seeing. Watch for the heart-shaped blow of gray whales, the bushy blows of orcas, or the tall, columnar-shaped blow of a humpback whale.
- All Classifications
- Baleen Whales
- Toothed Whales
- All cetaceans exhibit behaviors such as spyhopping, tail-lobbing, breaching and porpoising.
- Unlike humans, cetaceans are conscious breathers, meaning they never fall completely asleep!
Baleen whales breathe though a pair of blowholes and have specialized structures in their mouth called baleen instead of teeth to help them trap small fish and plankton. Baleen whales include gray whales, humpback whales, minke whales, fin whales and blue whales.
Toothed whales, including dolphins and porpoises, are usually smaller than baleen whales and have one blowhole. Toothed whales are selective eaters and often hunt down individual animals, such as fish, squid, seals or sea lions.