Questions for “Whale blowholes don’t keep out seawater”

a photo of a humback whale surfaceing and spouting water

A humpback whale spouts water from its blowhole. New research shows the blowhole isn’t as protective as scientists had thought, and water and pollutants may be getting into whales’ lungs.

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To accompany Whale blowholes don’t keep out seawater


Before Reading:

1. Name five things that help define whales.

2. How do whales breathe?

During Reading:

1.  According to the story, what evolutionary route did whales’ blowholes take?

2.  What advantage did scientists used to think head-top blowholes gave whales?

3.  What types of whales were studied as part of the research described in the story?

4.  What new feature of these whales did drone videos of them turn up, and how did that feature vary by whale species?

5.  What are two ways that facets of spilled oil might find their way into whales?

6.  What are blow samples and how do scientists collect them?

After Reading:

1.  What difference do you think it would make whether a whale was exposed to oil via its blowhole or its stomach? Think about the nature of the different organs that might be affected. Which do you think might be a more harmful route of exposure to the animal? Explain your reasoning.

2.  What are other types of pollutants (besides oil) to which whales might be exposed? Think of all the things that can end up in seawater. Besides toxic chemicals, what other types of harmful exposures might a whale encounter? (Hint: What do you know about submarines?)