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Discovery Magazine 9/1/2003

Proof of God’s Power

by  Alden Bass

Few animals show the majesty of the Creator better than the great whale. These creatures awe us not only by their gigantic size, but also by their noble beauty. Even though whales are animals, they can sing, communicate with each other, and live in families. Some types of whales, especially dolphins and porpoises, seem to enjoy human company, and legends all over the world describe friendships between whales and humans.

Though we are taught in school that whales are mammals, it is easy to forget why. Just like fish, they have fins instead of feet, live in the water all their lives, and don’t seem to have any hair. On closer examination though, there are many differences between fish and whales. Whales are warm-blooded; unlike fish, theirbody temperature remainsconstant all the time (just like yourbody temperature is almost always around 98.6˚F). Whales also breathe air, instead of filtering water through gills as fish do. This is why they make a water spout when they surface. The last difference is very obvious, but most people would not guess it: a whale’s tail, called a “fluke,” is flat, not vertical, like a fish’s.

Whales, dolphins, and porpoises are all classified as cetaceans (si TAY shunz), which comes from the Greek word for sea-monster. Ancient sailors were afraid of whales, and thought they were monsters because they only saw parts of their body at a time. Today, we know much more about whales because we can study them underwater in their habitat. We know that there are about 75 species ofwhales divided into two groups —the baleen whales and the toothed whales. Baleen whales eat shrimp and other tiny ocean animals by straining them through their baleen, which is like a giant filter made of hairy plates. The hair filters out the big fish and leaves only the tiny animals.The toothed whales have peg-like teeth that they use to capture fish, squid, seals, and sometimes other whales. Although these large animals may seem ferocious to us  (imagine a killerwhale!), scientists say they have no taste for humans.

Whales are the largest and most powerful creatures on Earth, and they reflect the mighty power of the God Who made them. If whales could talk, they might say to God, “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).

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