Did you know that all whales, dolphins and porpoises are closely related? Even though they come in a huge variety of sizes, with some living in oceans and others in rivers, they all belong to the same group of animals. Scientific groupings of plants and animals are known as orders, and the order that whales, dolphins and porpoises belong to is called Cetacea (pronounced ‘sey-tay-sha’). It’s a big group, containing around 90 species. The word ‘cetacea’ comes from the Greek word ketos, which means “whale”.

All whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans) live in water and have specific features and streamlined bodies that allow them to thrive in this environment. Their front-limbs have a paddle-like shape good for steering, and instead of hind limbs, they have a tail fluke that propels them forward in water. But even though these traits give whales, dolphins and porpoises a fish-like appearance, they are not fish. Instead, they share many similarities with animals including dogs, cows, bears, bats and humans: we are all mammals.

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