Do whales have bones? The fascinating secret behind them

Do whales have bones? It’s a surprising question. You may have heard that whales are boneless creatures – but is this true? In actuality, there is more to the story than meets the eye. Believe it or not, whales do have bones! While the structure and composition of their skeletal system are far different from that of land animals, whales are vertebrate creatures with an internal bony structure.

In this blog post, we will unpack what makes up a whale’s bones and explore how they aid in its amazing aquatic feats. Keep reading to discover the fascinating secret behind one of nature’s giants!

Here’s the answer: Do whales have bones?

Whales do have bones! “The skeleton of a whale consists of a skull, a backbone, a rib cage, and a collection of bones that are part of the flipper but correspond closely to the bones in the human arm and hand. There is a scapula (shoulder blade), humerus (upper arm bone), ulna and radius (forearm bones), and a collection of metacarpals (wrist bones) and phalanges (fingers) that correspond to the hand.”Dr. Galapagos (FT Exploring, Science and Technology)

Do Whales Have Bones!

For starters, whales have skull bones that protect the brain and house the organs involved in hearing, balance, and smell. Then there are vertebral column bones, which form the backbone. These bones serve the same purpose as land animals—stabilizing and protecting the spinal cord. Additionally, whales have rib bones that protect their lungs and support muscles used during swimming motions.

The most interesting part of a whale’s skeleton is the flipper bones. These are long, finger-like bones that connect to the pectoral fins and help a whale steer its course in the water. The number of phalanges (bones) in each flipper differs from species to species, but generally speaking, whales have five or fewer on each side.

Finally, you’ll find bones in a whale’s tail or caudal fin. The caudal fin connects to a series of vertebrae and bones, which help provide strength and flexibility. They also extend into the large muscles that power the tail during swimming.

How many bones does a whale have?

Depending on the length of their spine, whales boast a diverse selection of bones – varying from species to species. For example, sperm whales feature 184 bones, while the blue whale (the biggest animal on earth) has 356 bones!

Let’s take a look at the number of bones some whale species have:

  • Blue whale – 356 bones
  • Sperm whales 184 bones
  • Right whale – 177 bones
  • Humpback whale – 161 bones
  • Killer whale – 250 bones

Which whale has the largest skeleton?

The blue whale has the largest bone of any creature on earth; the largest blue whale skeleton in the world is called “Hope,” which is 25m long, weighs 4 tons, and is comprised of 98% bone. It is exhibited in the London Natural History Museum.”The story of Hope started in 1891 when she was found on the shoreline of Ireland.

Which whale has the smallest skeleton?

The vaquita has the smallest skeleton. It is the smallest of all living cetaceans, measuring between 4,6-4,9 feet long. Their skeletons are estimated to be around 5 feet long.

What bones do whales have?

Whales have various bones, including a skull, backbone, pelvis bones, and rib cage, as well as many smaller bones in their fins.

The skeleton structure of whales is varied, with the skulls of baleen whales being significantly bigger than those of toothed whales due to their vast mouths that open wide and capture prey.

Baleen whales contain an upper jaw adorned with a “curtain” of baleen which hangs from the mandibles and serves as a filter for krill, squid, and small fish – all vital components to their diet.

In contrast, sperm whales are equipped with teeth in their bottom jaw and have giant heads, enabling them to hunt for large squid.

What are whale bones made of?

Do Whales Have Bones!

Whale bones are mainly composed of collagen and calcium, which makes them fairly lightweight yet durable enough to withstand the impact of crashing waves. The amount of calcium in a whale’s bones can vary between species but generally range from 15 – 20%. Calcium is essential for healthy bones and helps keep them strong so whales can make powerful movements in the water. Additionally, whale bones also contain large amounts of phosphorus, which helps form proteins and enzymes. These elements comprise most of a whale’s skeleton and are essential for its health and well-being.

Whale bones are solid but flexible simultaneously, allowing them to bend slightly when put under pressure to protect the whale’s internal organs from shock and damage. This unique composition makes them ideal for various activities, such as swimming and diving.

The jaws of baleen whales, like the blue whale and humpback, are brimming with baleen plates composed of keratin – a material that makes up human hair and nails.

Whale bones also have a special kind of cartilage called ‘whale cartilage,’ which helps to provide extra strength and protection to their skeleton. This material comprises a complex mixture of proteins, minerals, and other components that work together to make whale bones more resilient. As well as being strong, this cartilage can absorb shock effectively – reducing the risk of injury during aquatic activities.


In conclusion, whales do have bones, but their skeletal system is much different from other land animals. That said, the structure of their bony framework is essential for their water-dwelling lifestyle, allowing them to move swiftly and gracefully through the depths. Now that you know how whales’ bones help them survive in the ocean, why not take some time today to appreciate these majestic creatures?

If you are interested in the mystery of whales’ hair, read our article Do whales have hair? Unveiling the Mystery of Whales’ Hair