In this recently released image of CNSA's ZhuRong lander and rover China releases new Mars image taken by Tianwen-1 probe, CCTV (English) Article there are many white features scattered over the terrain:

ZhuRong w/ Whales (too lazy to circle them all, but you get the idea)

Small Aside: I propose they be called 'whales' for many reasons:

Enough silliness, what are these features? Are they specific to this region of Mars (Utopia Planitia)?

Here are snippets from a HiRISE image (ESP_069177_2055_MIRB PDS label, low-res browser preview) showing a few of these features in full resolution (North is up):

HiRISE examples

Initial Observations:

  • they are all pretty well aligned East-West
  • there is a large concentration of them along the bottom of a ridge (top right sub image)
  • one has formed inside of a crater (top left, wow!)
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Goodness this is a well-researched question! speaking of seeing whales from space, several can be spotted here, flippers, flukes and all: Is it possible to see animals from space? and some nice looking linear-ish oriented features here (Earth) and here (Mars). $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jun 9, 2021 at 2:45
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ They look like barchan dunes with erosion (the ribs of the whales) $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Jun 9, 2021 at 7:05
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The original Space Whale from 1965 media.gettyimages.com/photos/… Note propulsive spout. $\endgroup$ Jun 9, 2021 at 16:59

1 Answer 1


Taking the current location of the Zhurong rover, 25.1° N and 109.7° E, as a guide to location of the region in question the Mars Global Surveyor took this photograph in 2004,

enter image description here

It shows "whale" like features on the surface of Mars, similar to the ones in your question. The location of these features is the Isidis Planitia 8.6° N, 268.2° W, which is the same as 8.6° N, 91.8° E. This is within the general location of Zhurong and thus close to the overall region associated with your first picture.

The description for the photograph states the light toned features (the "whales") as "ripple-like dunes".

This 2003 photograph, taken by Mars Global Surveyor of the Southern Auqakuh Vallis, 27.7° N, 298.0° W (27.7° N, 62.0° E), shows "several dozen large, windblown ripples on it", which look similar to the features in your picture.

enter image description here

If you zoom in on the red rectangle placed over a copy of one of the pictures from your question you will see erosion gullies along the sides of the sand dune.

enter image description here

In Summary: The "whales" are ripple-like dunes.


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