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Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises

A Natural History and Species Guide

The eighty-nine cetacean species that swim our seas and rivers are as diverse as they are intelligent and elusive, from the hundred-foot-long, two-hundred-ton blue whale to the lesser-known tucuxi, ginkgo-toothed beaked whale, and diminutive, critically endangered vaquita. The huge distances these highly migratory creatures cover and the depths they dive mean we catch only the merest glimpses of their lives as they break the surface of the water. But thanks to the marriage of science and technology, we are now beginning to understand their anatomy, complex social structures, extraordinary communication abilities, and behavioral patterns. In this beautifully illustrated guide, renowned marine mammalogist Annalisa Berta draws on the contributions of a pod of fellow whale biologists to present the most comprehensive, authoritative overview ever published of these remarkable aquatic mammals.

Opening with an accessible rundown of cetacean biology—including the most recent science on feeding, mating, and communication—Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises then presents species-specific natural history on a range of topics, from anatomy and diet to distribution and conservation status. Each entry also includes original drawings of the species and its key identifiers, such as fin shape and color, tooth shape, and characteristic markings as they would appear both above and below water—a feature unique to this book.

Figures of myth and—as the debate over hunting rages on—figures of conflict since long before the days of Moby-Dick, whales, dolphins, and porpoises are also ecologically important and, in many cases, threatened. Written for general enthusiasts, emergent cetacean fans, and biologists alike, this stunning, urgently needed book will serve as the definitive guide for years to come.

288 pages | 128 color plates | 11 x 9 3/4 | © 2015

Biological Sciences: Conservation, Evolutionary Biology, Tropical Biology and Conservation


“‘I take the good old-fashioned ground that the whale is a fish,’ Ishmael says confidently in Melville’s Moby-Dick. Old-fashioned indeed—whales are mammals, not fish. Thankfully, our scientific understanding of whales has come a long way since 1851, and much of that knowledge is collected in Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises, a sperm whale-sized compendium of all things cetacean.”

Chelsea Leu | WIRED

“Did you know that whales are related to cows and early whales had legs? Some whales release a ring of bubbles to corral their prey, and recent research suggests that bowhead whales may live for more than 200 years. Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises, edited by whale biologist Berta, explains the diet, conservation status, and a host of other details for each of the 89 species of cetacea. This guide is a fantastic resource for biologists and aquatic-mammal watchers alike. There is a sequence of illustrations showing what each species looks like above water as it dives.”

Boston Globe

“Entries are brief, accurate, authoritative, and they highlight fascinating features of these animals. This informative and captivating book will be a fine addition to libraries that serve everyone from laypeople to researchers and scientists who are interested in learning more about marine mammalogy, in particular the titular species.”

Tina Chan, SUNY Oswego | Library Journal

“Judged at a glance, this book is an elegant achievement to encapsulate all whales, dolphins, and porpoises. Although there is no shortage of guidebooks that focus on cetacean species, Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises: A Natural History and Species Guide gives homage to the diversity of this taxonomic group through its large page size, ample species-specific illustrations, and efficiently organized authoritative text. . . . This book gathers together the most interesting and pertinent research, alongside the information needed to identify every species, in a spacious and regimented format. This user-friendly directory will satiate any cetacean enthusiast's curiosity about species diversity and distribution; and I can envision that this book will inspire many future whale fans.”

Marine Mammal Science

“[This book] contains many good illustrations of the majority of extant species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises (cetaceans). It also provides a general overview of the systematics and evolution of cetaceans as a group and very brief summaries of anatomy, feeding, life history, range, and conservation issues for each species. Except for the first few dozen pages, the text is not meant to be read continuously, but browsed. In doing so, a reader will gain appreciation for the range of cetacean biology topics and some insight into recent developments in scientific understanding of that biology. Casual readers . . . should enjoy the photographs and drawings if they are curious about whales, dolphins, and porpoises. . . . Recommended.”

S. R. Fegley, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill | Choice

“A well illustrated reference book . . . to the world’s cetaceans.”

Ian Paulsen | Birdbooker Report

Table of Contents


The Biology
Phylogeny & Evolution
Anatomy & Physiology
Food & Foraging
Life History
Conservation & Management

Identification Tools & Maps
Identification Keys
Surface Behaviors
How & Where To Watch

The Species Directory
How to Use the Species Directory

Right Whales
    Southern Right Whale
    North Atlantic Right Whale
    North Pacific Right Whale
    Bowhead Whale
    Pygmy Right Whale

Rorqual Whales & Gray Whale
    Gray Whale
    Common Minke Whale
    Antarctic Minke Whale
    Sei Whale
    Bryde’s Whale
    Blue Whale
    Omura’s Whale
    Fin Whale
    Humpback Whale

Oceanic Dolphins
    Commerson’s Dolphin
    Chilean Dolphin
    Heaviside’s Dolphin
    Hector’s Dolphin
    Long-Beaked Common Dolphin
    Short-Beaked Common Dolphin
    Pygmy Killer Whale
    Short-Finned Pilot Whale
    Long-Finned Pilot Whale
    Risso’s Dolphin
    Fraser’s Dolphin
    Atlantic White-Sided Dolphin
    White-Beaked Dolphin
    Peale’s Dolphin
    Hourglass Dolphin
    Pacific White-Sided Dolphin
    Dusky Dolphin
    Northern Right Whale Dolphin
    Southern Right Whale Dolphin
    Irrawaddy Dolphin
    Australian Snubfin Dolphin
    Killer Whale
    Melon-Headed Whale
    False Killer Whale
    Guiana Dolphin
    Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin
    Indian Humpback Dolphin
    Australian Humpback Dolphin
    Atlantic Humpback Dolphin
    Pantropical Spotted Dolphin
    Clymene Dolphin
    Striped Dolphin
    Atlantic Spotted Dolphin
    Spinner Dolphin
    Rough-Toothed Dolphin
    Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin
    Common Bottlenose Dolphin

Sperm Whales
    Sperm Whale
    Pygmy Sperm Whale
    Dwarf Sperm Whale
    Narwhal & Beluga

Beaked Whales
    Arnoux’s Beaked Whale
    Baird’s Beaked Whale
    Northern Bottlenose Whale
    Southern Bottlenose Whale
    Longman’s Beaked Whale
    Sowerby’s Beaked Whale
    Andrews’ Beaked Whale
    Hubbs’ Beaked Whale
    Blainville’s Beaked Whale
    Gervais’ Beaked Whale
    Ginkgo-Toothed Beaked Whale
    Gray’s Beaked Whale
    Hector’s Beaked Whale
    Deraniyagala’s Beaked Whale
    Strap-Toothed Whale
    True’s Beaked Whale
    Perrin’s Beaked Whale
    Pygmy Beaked Whale
    Stejneger’s Beaked Whale
    Spade-Toothed Beaked Whale
    Shepherd’s Beaked Whale
    Cuvier’s Beaked Whale

River Dolphins
    Amazon River Dolphin
    Ganges River Dolphin

    Narrow-Ridged Finless Porpoise
    Indo-Pacific Finless Porpoise
    Spectacled Porpoise
    Harbor Porpoise
    Burmeister’s Porpoise
    Dall’s Porpoise

Classification of Cetaceans
Notes on Contributors


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