Yes, some species of whale do in fact have hair.
In fact whales, dolphins and porpoises are all marine mammals that belong to the cetacean family, which is composed of around 80 – 90 different species.
As a marine mammal whales share several features that are common among “almost” all mammals such as the need to breathe air, giving birth to live young, producing milk to feed their babies and the presence of body hair.
For whales body hair can often be seen on baby whales and depending on the species their body hair may fall off and disappear completely over the first several days/weeks of birth.
Although whales may be observed with hair not all species are born with hair and those that do have hair generally lose it quickly.
The hair that does appear on a whale is fairly light and unobtrusive.
If you’ve ever seen a whale you will notice that they aren’t particularly hairy.
Since whales do not need hair to maintain body heat (their blubber keeps them warm) marine biologists and researchers have speculated other possibilities as to why some whales are born with hair.
Some of these speculations include the possibility that infant whales use their hair to signal to their mother a desire to feed and be nursed by rubbing against the mother or a possibility of it playing an extra sensory role in sexual relationships among whales, however since it is likely that the hair will fall off shortly after birth it is unlikely that it will be used to show sexual interest.
The existence of hair may also be a sign of their evolutionary past when their ancestors walked on land.
Millions of years ago the ancestors of whales were designed to hunt and survive on the ground.
This can be seen by observing the curvature of a whales spine which appears to resemble that of a species designed for walking and/or running.
Bones with digit like structures can also be found in the whales flippers which appear to have been legs or arms that were once used for walking, fighting or gathering food.
Aside from this whales breathe air instead of being born with gills, which extract oxygen from the water.
The nostrils were believed to have been moved to the top of the head to assist with living in the ocean.
All of these factors combined with the fact that these marine mammals are still born with hair make the evolutionary theory one of the most compelling reason for why hair is still present on these animals, albeit to a lesser degree.
While the exact reason some whales are born with hair is still unknown it is a fascinating topic to talk about.
As stated earlier aside from being born with hair whales have several other characteristics that they share with other mammals including:
- Giving birth (exceptions include the platypus & echidna which lay eggs)
- Breathing oxygen (having lungs and breathing air rather than being born with gills such as fish or breathing through their skin like some amphibious species such as salamanders)
- Being warm-blooded
- Producing milk
- Having hair