Whale Watching: Do Whales Blink?

do whales blink

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Whales are some of the biggest animals on earth, with some species such as the blue whale having a size equivalent to 25 adult elephants or 300 polar bears!

An animal this size must have some huge eyes, right? Absolutely, the eye of a blue whale is about the same size as a baseball or grapefruit, pretty big given that ours are around the size of a cherry.

Today, we’re going to answer a question that often comes up when discussing whales and their eyes, and for good reason. “Do whales blink?”

YES, whales do blink. They blink much less than we humans do as it is so laborious for an animal of this size to be blinking regularly.

Let’s take a closer look…

Do Whales Actually Blink?

Whales do blink, only much less often than we humans do up here on land. Most whales only have the need to blink once every couple of hours due to how their eyes work.

Blinking is an action that lubricates and cleans the eyes by spreading tears over the outer surface to remove any particles that gather.

It’s an essential part of eye health, even for whales. The coating of tears helps to sharpen the whale’s vision by brightening the image the retina receives.

Do Whales Have Eyelids?

Whales also have eyelids. They are interesting in the fact that they work with tear ducts, just as the eyelash helps to protect the eyes in land mammals.

The tear duct creates a protective solution that is spread over the surface of the eye when the whale does blink.

This cleans, refreshes, and keeps the whale’s eye nice and healthy. The solution is so strong that it only required the whale to blink every few hours (wouldn’t that be nice!).

A whale’s eyelids are also much fatter around the eyes than most other animals. This makes them difficult to move and required energy in doing so.

When sperm whales close their eyes it causes the eye to move inwards instead of the lid covering it spherically.

How Often Do Whales Blink?

Most whales only blink once every one to five hours or so. This is because the solution that is created in their tear ducts is so strong that they don’t need to blink more than this.

Not only that, but blinking for whales is a task that burns energy, so they don’t want to be wasting precious calories on blinking all of the time when they are on the move.

Some whales travel vast distances for feeding and mating, often fasting whilst doing so for months on end.

Wasting energy on blinking would deplete their energy stores quicker than usual and could mean the difference between making it to feeding grounds or starvation.

How Do Whales Close Their Eyes?

A whale’s eye usually only closes fully when they are sleeping, but whales have a unique ability that allows them to quite literally sleep with one eye open.

The ability is called unihemispheric sleeping and allows whales to divide their sleep so that one half of the brain is sleeping whilst the other half of the brain is awake.

This allows whales to get some rest, as well as be on the lookout for any incoming predators and protect their young if needs be.

There are many advantages to being able to sleep with one eye open, and with the ocean being a dangerous place for many whales it’s a true blessing.

Do Whales Use Their Eyes Much?

Whales are perfectly adapted to life in the ocean, with the ability to regulate their own body temperature to stay toasty even in the coldest waters, to having fins, flippers, and flukes that push them through the currents.

However, whales actually have poor eyesight when compared to humans and other animals.

Whilst it’s not possible to fully understand the strengths of a whale’s eyes, we do know that eyesight is much less important for these giants than their hearing.

Their sense of touch, echolocation, and hearing is vital for whales to be fully aware of their surroundings.

Whales certainly use their eyes regularly, but other senses come in much handier for whales whilst roaming the ocean.

Gazing Into A Whale Eyes

Whales are some of the most fascinating animals on earth. They are enormous, intelligent animals that feel emotions such as joy, happiness, as well as sadness, and grief.

Looking eye-to-eye with a whale is a profound experience that I will personally never forget in my lifetime.

Having gazed directly into a humpback whale’s eye off the coast of Tonga, I was overcome with gratitude and joy for our planet and its wildlife.

This is an experience that many people have had and is one that they too have also reported profound experiences with.

Some people believe that the reason for this is that a whale’s eyes are so big that they provide comfort to humans as they have a soulful look that represents knowledge.

Feeling so insignificant and small in the face of an ocean giant is truly magic, and an experience that I hope all of my readers have the pleasure of enjoying one day.

Final Thoughts

If you’re ever lucky enough to have an experience swimming with whales, gazing into their eyes is something you’ll never forget in all your life.

Whales are majestic animals, and looking into their eyes can bring no a feeling of emotion and the feeling that you’re looking into the animal’s soul.

These giant animals have large eyes that are surprisingly poor, but nevertheless, whales do use their eyes and do indeed blink.

Blinking for whales is an energy-expending task that burns more calories than you might think, so it’s not something they are doing willy-nilly.

Once every few hours is enough to replenish the eyes with the strong solution created by the tear ducts to clean, refresh and maintain eye health.

Hopefully, you’ve learned something new today about why whales blink and have enjoyed reading this article.

See you in the next one.