UCSB Science Line
Sponge Spicules Nerve Cells Galaxy Abalone Shell Nickel Succinate X-ray Lens Lupine
UCSB Science Line
How it Works
Ask a Question
Search Topics
Our Scientists
Science Links
Contact Information
What would happen if a whale didn't have a blowhole?
Question Date: 2018-12-14
Answer 1:

Whales are like you and me--they breathe their nostrils. Whale nostrils (called a blowhole) are usual--rather that being at the tip of their snouts (as in a dog, for example), they are positioned on top of the head between the eyes. Interestingly, early fossil whales had dog-like nostrils, out at the front tip of the skull, not blowholes. Without blowholes, a modern whale would have difficulty breathing. Without a blowhole, they'd have to breathe through their mouths. Whales live in water. It's tough for them to keep water out of their mouths since they don't have lips, so it's difficult for them to breathe through their mouths.

Answer 2:

A blowhole is the whale’s nostrils; they inhale and exhale through their blowhole. If they did not have it, they would not be able to breathe! In some whale species, the blowhole looks a lot like a nose. Unlike us, their nose is positioned on the top of their head so they can more easily breathe in air when they come to the surface of the water. Here is a website with images of whale blowholes:

whales blowholes .

Answer 3:

Whales are pretty amazing. Whales are mammals like us, so they can’t breathe underwater. They can hold their breath a lot longer than we can, but still need to come up for air.

Blowholes are actually nostrils on the top of their heads. The ancestors of whales were land mammals that had nostrils more like a dog’s. As generations of these animals spent more time in water, those that happened to have higher nostrils were probably more likely to survive and leave offspring. You can actually see on a whale’s skull how all of the bones of their skulls have shifted to move the nostrils up. Lots of animals that live in water have nostrils that are high on their heads. Beavers and alligators are examples. This is an example of how the function of a structure depends on its form or structure.

Because their nostrils are on the top of their head, whales can breathe without getting out of the water. It’s almost like a snorkel. Whales can blow water out while they are still a bit underwater by using a lot of pressure. To inhale, the nostrils have to be a bit above the water, but the rest of the whale can stay underwater. This takes a lot less energy than lifting the entire head out of the water and it may be safer. They can also close their blowholes to keep water out.

So you can see that a whale without a blowhole would have a big problem. Without blowholes, they’d have to lift their entire heads to breathe through their mouths.

What other ways are whales adapted for life in the ocean?

Thanks for asking.

Answer 4:

Not having a blowhole is like not having a nose - that's what the blowhole is. Whales breathe through their noses, so they would drown if they didn't have them.

Answer 5:

Well, the whale would definitely be in trouble! Whales are mammals like us, which means they need to breathe oxygen in the air and they have lungs. The blowhole is how the whale breathes. It is basically like the whale’s nose. Without it, the whale would not be able to breathe!

Click Here to return to the search form.

University of California, Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory National Science Foundation
This program is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and UCSB School-University Partnerships
Copyright © 2020 The Regents of the University of California,
All Rights Reserved.
UCSB Terms of Use