The Future is Wild Wiki
Temporal range: 5 million AD
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Suliformes
The gannetwhale has given up flying completely, so its wings can evolve just for swimming, like flippers on a sea lion or a penguin, so it can travel at high speed underwater.

The gannetwhale is an aquatic flightless bird native to the North Atlantic coasts in 5 million AD. Gannetwhales are descended from diving gannets, but are significantly better adapted for life in the ocean, having become very large penguin-like birds reminiscent of seals and dolphins. However, unlike marine mammals, as birds, they are obliged to go ashore to roost, breed, and nest.



The gannetwhale's ancestor, the northern gannet (Morus bassanus), was a flying diving bird.

The gannetwhale is descended from the northern gannet (Morus bassanus), the largest species of gannet, and a common diving seabird which ranged throughout Europe and North America during the Human era. Unlike many other seabirds, gannets hunted by plunge-diving into the sea and swimming in pursuit of fish; they thus already had limited adaptations to an aquatic lifestyle.[1]

After the sixth mass extinction, with the extinction of the cetaceans, and the extinction or extirpation[2] of the pinnipeds, gannets were well-positioned to exploit the empty niches of swift underwater hunters. The ancestral gannetwhale's loss of flight allowed its anatomy to become better-adapted to swimming.[1] It now fills the niches of marine mammals like small toothed whales[1] and seals,[3] but its avian oviparity has prevented it from becoming entirely aquatic.[1]

The gannetwhale is one of a number of highly-specialised, aberrant birds which exist in 5 million AD; others include the carakiller and the spink.


Gannetwhales are generally similar in size to a male walrus,[3] around 3 m (10 ft) in length,[4] but may grow to around 6 m (20 ft), the size of a bus.[2] In form, they also resemble walruses,[3] as well as penguins.[5] Unlike penguins, gannetwhales are incapable of standing up on their feet, instead sliding on their undersides like marine mammals, loons, or Cretaceous hesperornitheans.[4] Thick blubber and a dense coat of short whitish-beige feathers insulate the gannetwhale from the very cold water of the North Sea, and streamline its body.[3]

FIW 1x2 Gannetwhale head

One characteristic which immediately distinguishes the gannetwhale from a seal is its long beak ("Return of the Ice").

The gannetwhale's stubby wings are too small for it to fly. They instead function as swimming flippers or paddles, which can propel it at speeds of up to 18–20 mph (30–32 kph).[3][2] Its weak feet function as rudders, allowing it to turn rapidly.[1] The gannetwhale's nostrils close up underwater, preventing it from drowning. It has glands↗ above its eyes for excreting salt, which its marine diet provides in excess.[3]


Gannetwhales swimming

Gannetwhales hunting for fish underwater (manga).

Gannetwhales are mainly aquatic hunters, and are ungainly and clumsy on the land. In the sea, they hunt fish and squid, relying on their speed and agility. However, they remain tied to the land by their need to roost, breed, and nest out of the water.[1] They preferentially roost on islands and shingle beaches, covered in gravel deposited by past glacial erosion.[3]

FIW 1x2 Gannetwhale egg

Female gannetwhales are attentive mothers ("Return of the Ice").

Gannetwhales are highly social, nesting in large rookeries, and have tightly-knit family structures.[3] Adults are highly protective of their young, and tend to their eggs with great care.[4] Breeding occurs in the summer, and a single egg is produced, which is incubated well into the winter. The mother gannetwhale insulates her egg from the cold by holding it to her tail with her feet, keeping it close to her warm belly. Like Human era emperor penguins, male gannetwhales return to the sea during the incubation period, and hunt for fish to bring back to their families.[3]


Gannetwhale and snowstalker

A group of nesting gannetwhales are hassled by a snowstalker (A Natural History of the Future).

In the sea, gannetwhales have no predators. On land, however, females and their offspring, including eggs, are vulnerable. Gannetwhale colonies tend to nest on islands to avoid predators, but during harsh winters, ice bridges allow animals like snowstalkers access to the rookeries.[3] In groups, gannetwhales defend themselves using their size and their serrated beaks, which are capable of delivering severe wounds.[6] They will also regurgitate partially-digested fish and squid, the foul smell of which repels any predators with powerful senses of smell.[1] Despite this, gannetwhale populations are decimated when predators can reach their rookeries.[3]


In the documentary[]

In "Return of the Ice", a hungry snowstalker challenges a group of nesting gannetwhales for their eggs, but is quickly repelled when one of them regurgitates food at her.

In the manga[]

Chapter I, "North European Icefields," begins with a pod of gannetwhales returning to shore to find a juvenile being attacked by a snowstalker and her cub. The snowstalkers slip off the iceberg they are standing on, allowing the chick and its parents to escape into the sea. More gannetwhales are later shown breaching and hunting for fish underwater.

Baby Gannetwhale and Snowstalker

Gannetwhale chick and Snowstalker baby

In the animated series[]

A number of gannetwhales including Tooby, his mother, Beaker, and Doop appear in "Scared Safe". Tooby, a juvenile gannetwhale, leaves his friends to follow the Time Flyer. When he, Emily, Squibby, Ethan, and Luis are attacked by a snowstalker, Tooby and his mother repel it by regurgitating food.

In "Snowstalker in a Strange Land", a flock of gannetwhales are briefly scanned by C.G. and Emily. At the very end of the episode, when Luis catches a fish from an ice hole, a gannetwhale leaps out of the hole and eats the fish off the line.

Behind the scenes[]

Gannetwhale figure

The Japanese gannetwhale figurine.

One of the future animals originally conceived for The Future Is Wild was a giant penguin. However, DreamWorks SKG's lawyers objected to this, due to its similarity to two animals in Dougal Dixon's After Man, the vortex and the porpin. Although Dixon himself designed the animals for The Future Is Wild, the rights to After Man are owned by DreamWorks. Dixon confirmed palaeontologist Darren Naish's assumption that the gannetwhale was created to replace this giant penguin.[7]

In 2006, a 2 in (5 cm) long figurine of a gannetwhale was produced by the Japanese company Diamond, alongside figurines of the megasquid, poggle, terabyte, toraton, carakiller, and ocean flish. These figurines were also released in France in 2008, and Australia in 2010, to coincide with the openings of attractions based on The Future Is Wild.

The gannetwhale was one of several marine animals from The Future Is Wild to appear in a 2010–2011 exhibition at Australia's Sydney Aquarium. The "gannetwhale feature" included exclusive footage, such as a depiction of a gannet morphing into a gannetwhale.[8] A gannetwhale model, created by Alain Dalis, was also on display at the 2008–2012 Les Animaux du Futur attraction at France's Futuroscope. In the original 2008 iteration of the attraction, it was displayed in the pre-show room, but following renovations in 2009, it was moved to the H20 shop elsewhere in the Futuroscope. In Germany, a different gannetwhale model appeared in a The Future Is Wild exhibition at Dinopark Münchehagen from 2012–2016, and at Dinosaurierpark Teufelsschlucht since 2016. An identical model was on display at the Dobergmuseum in Bünde from 2013–2014.

List of appearances[]



In other languages[]

Language Name Translation
French Fou-baleine Same as English name (fou de Bassan: "gannet")
German Tölpelwal Same as English name
Italian Balenasula Same as English name
Japanese Ganettohoēru (ガネットホエール) Transcription of English name
Czech Terejokyt Same as English name