The largest cetacean in the world is the blue whale, whose scientific name is whale. Although some claim that some dinosaurs grew over 100 feet, this beast was the largest animal that ever lived. It has the potential to grow to 100 feet long, but no longer. Despite their size, blue whales can be quite elusive. For example, no one has ever seen two blue whales mate or ever seen a blue whale give birth. Since it is endangered and can no longer be collected for study, some of what scientists know about it is inferred. Here are some things people know about this awesome animal.
what does it look like
The blue whale is fusiform, meaning it’s shaped like a spindle that tapers toward the ends. This cetacean has a tapering tail. The upper surface is bluish-gray, sometimes mottled with gray. Seen through the water, it appears blue. The belly is sometimes yellow, which has given the animal another name – sulfur-bottomed. The yellow color is not the animal’s natural color, but is caused by the diatoms that attach to its abdomen when it swims in cold water.
The upper jaw of the blue whale has a row of setae-parallel plates called baleen. Baleen is made of the same material as fingernails and is used to sift food out of the water. This animal has a broad, flat beak or beak, almost U-shaped. It has a ridge in the center of its back and has two blowholes. When it surfaces, the blow is high and oval in shape. The dorsal fin is very small, triangular in shape, and lies fairly far back on the tail. The animal also has grooves in its throat, just past the navel. These grooves allow the throat to expand when food and water are inhaled. When a blue whale dives, it lifts its tail out of the water. This is called a fluke, and not every whale does it.
how big is it
Anyone who visits the American Museum of Natural History in New York City can’t help but see the 94-foot model blue whale at the Milstein Sea Life Museum. It actually hangs from the ceiling and takes up the entire space. This specimen is considered a large specimen of the species, as the largest of these marine mammals averaged over 86 feet in length. Blue whales much larger than this are unusual. Scientists believe the animals could not have grown longer than 108 feet because maintaining such a large size required too much energy. By the way, females are bigger and heavier than males.
In addition to body length, cetaceans can weigh up to 219 short tons, or 438,000 pounds, but most blue whales weigh much less than that.
Why is it so big?
Nature allowed the blue whale to grow so large — even though its terrestrial ancestors were only the size of a cat — because it now lives in the ocean.Not only are the oceans big enough to hold creatures of many sizes whalebut the animal’s growth is not limited by gravity, just like it still lives on land.
How many species of blue whales are there?
There are about four types of blue whales, plus many subspecies. These subspecies live in different oceans around the world. they are:
1. small whale
3. short tailed whale
4. fin whale
This subspecies has been divided into groups found in the eastern North Pacific; western-central North Pacific; North Atlantic and northern Indian Oceans. They are also found in the waters around Madagascar, Chile, Indonesia and Western Australia, as well as New Zealand and Eastern Australia.
Where do blue whales live?
It can be seen that these marine mammals live in oceans all over the world, however, they are more abundant in the Southern Hemisphere as compared to the Northern Hemisphere. These animals have also been known to visit shallow waters near the coast and have been found off the coasts of California and Mexico. Some migrate to feeding and breeding grounds, while others stay in the same place year-round.
what does it eat
Most blue whale populations are known to eat krill, small crustaceans similar to and related to shrimp. Depending on the time of year, cetaceans can eat up to four tons of krill per day. However, there are so many krill in the ocean that they can sustain populations not only of blue whales, but of other marine animals such as baleen whales, penguins and seals, as well as humans. When a blue whale feeds, it simply opens its mouth and lunges forward into a swarm of krill. The ventral pleats allow the throat to expand like a bellows. It then uses its baleen to filter most of the water from its mouth and swallows the krill.
Krill are known to undergo vertical migration, meaning they rise to the ocean’s surface within 24 hours before sinking to the bottom. The whales feed on krill near the top, middle and bottom of the migration.
The average whale consumes 4 tons of krill per day. The waste from blue whales, known as ambergris, acts ecologically as a fertilizer and contributes to the growth of algae. It’s also used in the perfume industry, so it’s a hot commodity for humans, and it retails for quite a lot of money.
Is there anything to eat a blue whale?
Other animals are nowhere near as big, strong, or smart enough to prey on blue whales. The exception, of course, is humans smart enough to build whaling ships and killer whales, or orcas smart enough to hunt in packs and at least try to take on blue whales. Although scientists don’t know exactly how many blue whales have been killed by orcas, they have seen many with bite marks that they believe came from orcas. Orcas have been known to successfully prey on juvenile blue whales, but adults seem to be able to escape even after being harassed for hours.
What are other threats?
Thanks to the International Whaling Commission, blue whales are no longer being hunted, which nearly brought them to the brink of extinction. However, they do face many other threats. They were still killed by boats. Some became tangled in fishing gear and the noise of the ocean disoriented them. Their health is affected by pollution, including plastic. Climate change is adversely affecting blue whales by reducing krill populations or making krill harder to find.
how fast is it swimming
Not surprisingly, blue whales are not the fastest swimmers in the ocean. A blue whale trying to dodge a pod of killer whales can hit 20 miles per hour. Killer whales can reach 28 miles per hour, but only in short bursts.
Reproduction and Babies
How blue whales make other blue whales is one of the more mysterious things about them. Scientists speculate that a female, or cow, is ready to breed when she’s about 10 years old or 77 feet long, at least if she’s from Antarctica. Males or bulls may be ready to reproduce by about a year, and there may be some populations that reach reproductive maturity at five years of age. The whales are thought to breed in the fall and winter, with females giving birth after 10 months to a year of pregnancy. That’s considered a short amount of time for an animal of this size. The much smaller African elephant took almost twice as long to conceive. Blue whale cows typically give birth to a calf every two to three years.
The calf was 23 feet long and weighed 6,200 pounds at birth. His mother will take care of him until he is seven or eight months old or 53 feet long. Whale milk is rich in fat, and calves gain about 198 pounds a day just from ingesting it. This means that the average mother needs to produce 490 pounds of milk per day.
Can blue whales sing?
Blue whales can “sing”, but their vocalizations are far less complex than those of humpback whales. Still, scientists can distinguish whale populations by their vocalizations. Vocalization also varies with the season, where the animal lives, what it is doing at the moment, and whether it is morning, afternoon, or evening. What’s different about the blue whale’s song is that it’s both loud and deep. The animal can produce sounds of up to 180 decibels, louder than a jet engine. Frequency is usually between 8 and 25 Hz. The latter frequency just enters the range of human hearing.
Because they are loud and quiet, they can travel up to 500 miles across the ocean. Whales use their voices to talk to other whales at a distance and to navigate.
How long can they live?
Scientists estimate that blue whales live about 80 to 90 years in the wild, although the oldest known blue whale lived to be 110 years old. How scientists figured out how long blue whales live is interesting. As the animal matures, its ears develop earwax, which eventually forms earplugs. The wax layer, like the growth rings on a cross-section of a tree trunk, told scientists how old the whale was. By the way, earwax does not interfere with a whale’s ability to hear, but rather enhances it by spreading sound waves.
I am broadly interested in how human activities influence the ability of wildlife to persist in the modified environments that we create.
Specifically, my research investigates how the configuration and composition of landscapes influence the movement and population dynamics of forest birds. Both natural and human-derived fragmenting of habitat can influence where birds settle, how they access the resources they need to survive and reproduce, and these factors in turn affect population demographics. Most recently, I have been studying the ability of individuals to move through and utilize forested areas which have been modified through timber harvest as they seek out resources for the breeding and postfledging phases. As well I am working in collaboration with Parks Canada scientists to examine in the influence of high density moose populations on forest bird communities in Gros Morne National Park. Many of my projects are conducted in collaboration or consultation with representatives of industry and government agencies, seeking to improve the management and sustainability of natural resource extraction.
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