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Sociable whales prefer colder climes.

The type of whale spotted splashing around in the River Thames yesterday can grow to be the same length as a traditional London bus.

Although the stranded animal's size has been estimated at 15-20ft, northern bottle nosed whales usually range between 24ft and 33ft.

They are easily identified by a rounded body and bulbous forehead, that is particularly pronounced in older males, and their beak-like snouts only boast two teeth which are used for snaring tasty snacks such as squid, starfish and herring.

The whales are known to be gregarious, collecting in "family" groups of up to 10 individuals where a larger male is accompanied by several females and offspring.

Occasionally some are sighted off the north-western coast of Scotland, but they prefer the deepest cold waters in their main habitats of the Arctic and North Atlantic Oceans.

As mammals, northern bottle nosed whales are unable to breathe under the surface, but they are believed to be the deepest-diving variety.

The worldwide population of Hyperoodon Ampullatus is not known, but they are thought to have been seriously depleted by heavy whaling activity during the last century.

The whales are listed on the UK's Biodiversity Action Plan, and killing or harming any in British waters is illegal.

Little is known for sure about their lifespan, although it is thought to be much the same as humans.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 21, 2006
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