Order - Cetacea
- Cetacea is a scientific order of large aquatic mammals that have forelimbs modified into flippers, a horizontally flattened tail, a nostril at the top of the head for breathing, and no hind limbs. Cetaceans include all whales, dolphins, and porpoises.
- The word "cetacean" is derived from the Greek word for whale, këtos.
- Living cetaceans are further divided into two suborders: the Odontoceti (toothed whales) and the Mysticeti (baleen whales).
- Odontoceti is a scientific suborder of whales that have teeth. The word "odontocete" comes from the Greek word for tooth, odontos.
Family - Monodontidae
- The only other member of this whale family is the narwhal, another arctic species.
- Family characteristics
- No dorsal fin.
- Small, broad pectoral flippers.
- Small, but distinct beaks.
- The seven neck vertebrae are not fused as they are in other whales.
Genus, Species - Delphinapterus Leucas
- The genus name Delphinapterus, means "dolphin without a fin". The species name leucas, means "white".
The scientific name for the beluga literally means "white dolphin without a fin".
- Other common names for the beluga include "white whale" and "belukha". They are also nicknamed "sea canaries" because of their vocalizations.
- Scientists believe that early whales arose 55 to 60 million years ago from (now extinct) ancient land mammals that ventured back into the sea.
- Representatives from the modern family Monodontidae first appear in the fossil record 9 to 10 million years ago in the eastern north Pacific.