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Stamp Spotlight: Whales of the World

October 13 , 2011

Brian Cannon

Earlier this year, on February 28, 2011, Tuvalu issued a set of seven very attractive stamps featuring whales of the world.

Tuvalu Whale stamps

Six $1 stamps were issued in a single sheet, depicting six different whales. The Killer Whale (Orcinus orca), commonly referred to as the Orca, is a toothed whale belonging to the oceanic dolphin family. Killer whales are found in all oceans, from the frigid Arctic and Antarctic regions to tropical seas. Killer whales as a species have a diverse diet, although individual populations often specialize in particular types of prey. Some feed exclusively on fish, while others hunt marine mammals such as sea lions, seals, walruses and even large whales. Killer whales are regarded as apex predators, lacking natural predators and preying on even large sharks.

The Short-finned Pilot Whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus) is one of the two species of cetacean in the genus Globicephala. It is part of the oceanic dolphin family (Delphinidae), though its behaviour is closer to that of the larger whales. Adults are 3.5 - 6.5 metres in length. When they are born short-finned pilot whales are about 1.4-1.9 metres long. A fully grown adult will weigh between 1 and 4 tonnes. Short-finned Pilot Whales are very sociable and are rarely seen alone. They are found in groups of ten to thirty, though some pods are as large as sixty.

The Melon-headed Whale (species Peponocephala electra) is a cetacean of the oceanic dolphin family (Delphinidae). The melon-headed whale is widespread throughout the world's tropical waters, although not often seen by humans because it prefers deep water. It weighs 10–15 kilograms (22–33 lb) at birth and is 1 metre (3.3 ft) long. An adult grows up to 3 metres (9.8 ft) long and weighs over 200 kilograms (440 lb). The whales' lifespan is at least 20 years and probably more than 30 years for females.

The Pygmy Killer Whale (Feresa attenuata) is a small, rarely seen cetacean of the oceanic dolphin family (Delphinidae). It derives its common name from sharing some physical characteristics with the orca ("killer whale".) It is the smallest species that has "whale" in its common name - an average-sized dolphin (a little larger and heavier than a grown man) and may easily be confused at sea with other species, in particular the melon-headed whale. The body is robust and dark-colored.

The False Killer Whale (Pseudorca crassidens) is a cetacean, and the third largest member of the oceanic dolphin family (Delphinidae). It lives in temperate and tropical waters throughout the world. The False Killer Whale is black with a grey throat and neck. It has a slender body with an elongated tapered head and 44 teeth. The dorsal fin is sickle-shaped and its flippers are narrow, short and pointed. The average size is around 4.9 m (16 ft). Females can reach a maximum known size 5.1 m (17 ft) in length and weigh 1,200 kg (2,600 lb), while the largest males can reach 6.1 m (20 ft) and weigh as much as 2,200 kg (4,900 lb).

The Sperm Whale, (Physeter macrocephalus), is a marine mammal species, order Cetacea, having the largest brain of any animal. The name comes from the milky-white waxy substance, spermaceti, found in the animal's head. The sperm whale is the only living member of genus Physeter. A bull can grow to 20.5 metres (67 ft) long. It is the largest living toothed animal. The head can represent up to one-third of the animal's length. It has a cosmopolitan distribution across the oceans. The species feeds on squid and fish, diving as deep as 3 kilometres (9,800 ft), which makes it the deepest diving mammal.

Tuvalu Whale stamps

Featured on the $3 souvenir sheet is the The Dwarf Sperm Whale (Kogia sima). Is one of three species in the sperm whale family. It is the smallest species commonly known as a whale. It grows up to 2.7 m (8.9 ft) in length and 250 kilograms (550 lb) in weight— making it smaller than the bigger dolphins. The species makes slow, deliberate movements with little splash or blow and usually lies motionless when at the sea's surface. Consequently it can be observed only in very calm seas, but throughout the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans.


Stamp Details:

Released date: 28 February 2011
Designer: IGPC Department
Printer: C & C Security Printers, Hong Kong
Process: Multicolor offset lithography
Stamp size: 30mm x 40mm (face value $6.00)
Souvenir Sheet Size: 100mm x 70mm (face value $3.00)

The stamps may be ordered direct from the Tuvalu Philatelic Bureau by mail, or at StampsOfTuvalu.com.

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