Do Beluga Whales Have Knees?

No, beluga whales don’t have any knees. Though early beluga whales had knees, down through the evaluation stages, beluga whales lost their genes and the skeletal structure required for having knees. Therefore, the use adapted well to deal with this absence of knees.

Are you still confused? Then, I will suggest you read this article. Because in this article, I will highlight some interesting facts regarding the beluga whale. If you are curious about how beluga whales deal with this physical exception, keep reading.

Do Beluga Whales Have Knees?

No, beluga whales don’t have any knees. Beluga Whales belong to the family Monodontidae and the genus Delphinapterus.  Animals of this group don’t contain any knees. But, certain photos taken from a few angles show that a beluga whale has knees. These knees are the bones that protrude from their thick fatty skin.

Beluga whales don’t have the skeletal structure that is required for the knees. So, there is no such joint in their body that they can use to drag their body through the water.

Near the hip, their front and back flippers are directly attached. This structure helps them to swim efficiently in water. Precisely speaking, beluga whales technically don’t have any knees. Instead, they have flippers for movement purposes.

Why Do Beluga Whales Look Like They Have Knees?

Pictures of beluga whales having knees are going viral nowadays. But it’s just the angle of pictures where it seems like knees.

But why does it look like knees when they don’t have any?

Beluga whales have thick abdominal fat. This abdominal fat running through the front body can easily be mistaken for knees.

Beluga Whale

The blubber of abdominal fats runs from the front flipper to the pelvic region. Importantly, they raise and tense their fat pads when they swim and roll upside down. In this process, fat pads can be pushed almost 14 cm outwards and 12 cm to the sides.

This pushing and tensing of abdominal fat are necessary to maintain balance while swimming. But this process ends up making those blubbers look like knees.

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How Do Beluga Whales Move Around Without Knees?

Unlike beluga whales, all mammals have bones in their legs. These bones help them to bend their knees and move their joints. But as we already know, beluga whales don’t have any knees, so how do they even move?

Beluga whales have a large hard ridge on their back and also have thick abdominal fat. These abdominal fats consist of blubber. Additionally, the front and back flippers are connected through this thick layer of blubber.

They can move both their flippers together. It makes them very flexible swimmers in the water. Hence, they even can swim through narrow spaces.

Furthermore,  the absence of kneecaps helps them to move their tails side to side easily. This gives them great maneuverability in the water. Also,  their backbones are not fused to their heads. Hence, they can move their neck side to side without turning their whole body.

But when it comes to moving on solid ground, they obviously can’t walk. They have to use their flippers to hug themselves and move forward. The speed of this locomotive is not that great. But it still works when necessary.

Do Any Whales Have Knees?

No modern whales, including Beluga and dolphin species, have knees (Source).


But, if we look back to 50 million years ago, whales had knees. That means early whales had knees and used to live on land. But due to evolution, they lost their genes for the feature of knees. As a result, their knees kept shrinking gradually.

At the end of 15 million years, they completely lost the gene. By that time, they were adapted to live in water. At present, whales are completely aquatic animals and don’t need their knees to move around in the water.

Do Beluga Whales Have Legs?

No. Beluga whales don’t have any legs. Instead of legs, they had flippers. All cetaceans have flippers. But many people claimed that they saw the legs of a beluga whale. Then, how was it possible?

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Distortion of viewing through the water creates an illusion of human-like legs when a beluga whale is seen from beneath. Whereas it’s just the prominent flanks of the beluga whales’ blubber.

That fatty insulation exactly gives the leg shape when whales move their flippers. It means, whoever saw the legs of a beluga whale, just saw their flippers.

Do Beluga Whales Used to Have Legs?

Yes, about 50 million years ago, the ancestors of the beluga whale were four-footed land dwellers. But they lost their foot on the path of evolution.

Over time, beluga whales started to spend more time in the water until they became fully aquatic. This transition to aquatic life occurred long before they lost their hind limbs.

During this transition period, their hind limbs became smaller day by day. But they still had the same arrangement and number of hind limbs as their ancestors.

beluga whale knee

The actual loss of hind limbs occurred due to the inactivation of the sonic hedgehog. This is an essential gene for limb development. Their hind limbs converted to extra long front legs. Beluga whales use these front legs as flippers to swim faster in the water.

Do Beluga Whales Have Fins?

Yes, beluga whales have fins. Fins are protruding body parts of a fish. Moreover, fins are covered with skin and attached as a flipper or in a webbed fashion.

To be noted, there are six types of fish fins. They are Dorsal, Pelvic,  Pectoral, Adipose, Anal, and Caudal.

beluga whale fins
Beluga Whales Fins

Let’s have a closer look at all the fin types:

Dorsal Fins

These fins are on top of a fish’s body. Dorsal fins prevent the rolling of fish. The main function of this fin is to help in quick stops or turns.

But a beluga whale doesn’t have any dorsal fin. Instead, they have a hard dorsal ridge. This helps them in swimming easily under ice flakes.

The absence of a dorsal fin and a dorsal ridge is helpful for beluga whales in preventing heat loss in cold water.

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Pelvic Fins

Generally, a pair of pelvic fins are located behind and ventrally below the pectoral fins of a fish.  Beluga whales have this type of fin.

Pelvic fins help a fish in moving upward and downward in water. But, the main function of this type of fin is to slow down and maintain the stability of a fish.

Pectoral Fins

These fins are located behind the operculum on both sides of the fish’s body. Though Beluga whales have pectoral fins, they are quite small relative to their body size. They are in the form of flippers.

Pectoral fins act as a support system while swimming. These fins help in creating dynamic lifting force and are also helpful for turning right and left.

Adipose Fins

These fins are between the caudal and dorsal fins. It helps fish in navigation in the water. Like dorsal fins, Beluga whales also don’t have any adipose fins.

Anal Fins

These fins are located just behind the anus on the ventral side of a fish. The main function of these fins is to stabilize fish during swimming. They also control the rolling motion. But the Beluga whale doesn’t have any anal fins.


Located at the caudal end of the body. The caudal fin of Beluga whales is homocercal type. That means they have two lobes of symmetrical proportion. They help in the locomotion of fish.

In short, beluga whales have three types of fins pelvic, pectoral, and caudal.

Final Verdict

There are many misconceptions about beluga whales having knees. Sarcastically, they were even mistaken for mermaids. If you have read this article till now, then I expect that you don’t have any further confusion about “do beluga whales have knees?”

In a nutshell, though early Beluga whales had legs and knees, modern beluga whales don’t have any. They evaluated their body structure to be suitable for survival in water. The absence of knees made their body more flexible and streamlined, which is necessary for efficient swimming.

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