Adaptations That Help Gray Whales Survive

Reading Writing Selection

Reading and Writing Connections

Dissecting a dead whale, a marine biologist could see that it spends its life in the ocean, lives at least part time in very cold water, and migrates long distances. How? By understanding how whale bodies and behaviors are adapted to habitat and food requirements.

In this lesson, we'll look closely at gray whales, from head to toe. Remember: There's always a WHY behind WHAT you see. So whenever you see an unusual behavior or body part, ask yourself WHY. Click on each whale-body section below to explore a gray whale's adaptations. Then play our Match Game: fill out a chart to see what you would need to add to your own body to live like a gray whale!





Click on these body parts for facts about gray whale adaptations.

Try This! Match Game [Print student worksheet]
The most important part of a human body is the brain, which allows us to solve a lot of problems and adjust to a lot of different environments without needing changes in our whole bodies. After you study a whale's adaptations from head to tail, think of some human inventions and how they could help us live like gray whales.

Human Inventions and Gray Whale Adaptations!

Directions: Match the whale?s abilities with a human invention that allows people to do what whales do because of natural adaptations.

Whale Ability

Human Invention

1. See underwater  
2. Swim deep down in the ocean without being crushed by high pressure  
3. Know when it's time to migrate  
4. Filter tiny bits of food out of huge gulps of water  
5. Stay underwater for many minutes without breathing  
6. Travel long distances without stopping  
7. Migrate long distances without getting lost  
8. Keep warm in icy water  
9. Propel body forward in water  
10. Drink ocean water  
To learn more, see: Adaptations: Fit for Survival.

National Science Education Standards

  • Organisms have basic needs. Organisms can survive only in environments in which their needs can be met.
  • Each plant or animal has different structures that serve different functions in growth, survival, reproduction.
  • Living systems at all levels of organization demonstrate the complementary nature of structure and function.
  • All organisms must be able to obtain and use resources, grow, reproduce, and maintain stable internal conditions in a constantly changing external environment.
  • Biological adaptations include changes in structures, behaviors, or physiology that enhance survival and reproductive success in a particular environment.