Do Whales Have Eyelids?

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There are so many things that we do not know about the animals we share this planet with, and as humans, it is natural for us to ask questions about them and try to gain as much knowledge as possible. One such question is, do whales have eyelids?  Whether it was a child’s mind, a shower thought, or a dinner table conversation that brought you to look up this information rest assured knowing that whales do, in fact, have eyelids!

A “Look” At Whale Eyelids

Whales’ eyelids are very interesting in the fact that they work with tear ducts as eyelashes would help to protect the eye in land mammals.  The tear ducts create a protective solution that is spread over the eye when the whale does blink.  This solution is so viscous that it can protect the eye for several hours unlike our own aqueous humor (fancy word for the watery part of our eye).   Whale eyelids are much fatter around the entire eye when compared to our own eyelids.  Because of this, the eyelids are extremely difficult to move.  In fact, when sperm whales close their eyes it causes the eye to move inward instead of the lid simply covering it spherically.

How Do Whales Close Their Eyes?

Another very interesting fact about whales is how and when they close their eyes.  Because it is so laborious to do so, the eye typically only closes when the whale is sleeping.  Whales possess the ability to put one hemisphere of their brain to sleep at a time (what I wouldn’t give for that talent!).  This ability is called unihemispheric sleeping which means that whales can actually divide their sleep so that half of their brain is awake, and the other half is resting up.  This means that typically whales are, literally, sleeping with one eye open.  As you can imagine, there are many advantages to this one of which is being able to stay alert and keep an eye on their pod!

Looking into the Eye of a Whale

There’s a basic fundamental of psychology that talks about how humans look for faces in everything: we are very social creatures and therefore are constantly looking for people and things to connect to in our environment.  This is why we tend to think certain things are cute versus others depending on those qualities that are attributed to physical features. 

Many people have had profound experiences when they’ve been able to look into the eye of a whale.  Some believe that this has to do with the fact that their eyelids are so big and give the whale that soulful look that represents knowledge and comfort in our own world.  Whales have certainly proved their intelligence and compassion or empathy like the scientist who was recently shielded from a predator by a whale and a pod of whales that adopted alone narwhal.  Humans have always felt emotionally compelled by whales and their similarities to humans, like mistaking beluga whales for mermaids.

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