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The snow-white beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas) is one of the most distinctive of all cetaceans (a group that includes dolphins, whales and porpoises). The stocky body ends in a particularly small head, and adults develop their striking white colouring as they mature. Beluga whales lack adorsal fin; their genus name Delphinapterus means 'dolphin-without-a-wing', but there is a ridge of toughened skin along the back that tends to be more pronounced in mature males. Unlike most cetaceans, beluga whales have an extremely flexible neck and can turn their head almost 90 degrees to the side. Their lips are also flexible and can form a variety of facial expressions. They have a very thick layer of blubber which may be up to 15 centimetres thick that provides insulation in the freezing arctic waters. Beluga whales use a wide range of vocalisations such as clicks, grunts, squeals, screeches and whistles. These sounds can be heard through the hulls of ships and the beluga whale was nicknamed the 'sea canary' by early Arctic sailors.



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