Unlike most other whales, the beluga has a flexible neck that enables it to turn its head in all directions.

BelugaWhalesBeluga Whale   © Clifton Hill

Belugas are also called white whales, and their unusual colour makes them one of the most familiar and easily distinguishable of all the whales. Calves are born grey or even brown and only fade to white as they become sexually mature around five years of age.

The beluga’s seven neck vertebrae are not fused like in other cetaceans, giving it a flexible, well-defined neck. This adaptation is believed to help them manoeuvre, orientate and catch prey.
Also unlike other whale species the beluga lacks a dorsal fin, but instead has a ridge where the dorsal fin would normally be located. In order to navigate the ocean the belugas flippers resemble paddles that help it steer and turn and its rear flukes help the whale propel itself through the water.

The Beluga has a distinct round shaped forehead, the so called ‘melon’, which is an important organ for communication that all toothed whales possess.
Structurally as part of the nose, the melon is filled with fat and tissue. Its function is not completely understood, but it is known to be used for communication as it visually changes shape when noise is produced.
Scientists believe it enables these whales to focus sounds used in echolocation and impedance matching. Impedance matching refers to the melon’s function in creating a similarity between characteristics of its tissue and the surrounding water, so acoustic energy can flow out of the head and into the environment with the least loss of energy.

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