The blue whale is in fact one of the largest animals ever to have existed on earth, yet it feeds on one of the smallest. Using large meter-long baleen plates, blue whales swallow up large amounts of water and filter out massive swarms of krill, a tiny creature in the shrimp family. Blue whale watching is mesmerizing, and fast becoming an ocean hobby and pasttime for whale watchers around the world.
Blue Whale Appearance
This jaw dropping huge whale has a long, streamlined shape, pale blue or grey back with mottled, lighter blotches. The belly is usually paler and sometimes white, although algae buildups on the bottom of blue whales can make it look yellow.
The head of this large mammal is broad and long, up to a quarter of its total body length, and arch shaped. A single ridge running along the top of the head ends in a very large splash guard in front of the two blowholes. Each of which can measure 22 inches in diameter.
The whale has 55 to 88 throat grooves which expand during feeding. The tongue of the blue whale weighs approximately 4 tonnes and is large enough for an entire football team to stand on. These beautiful long living whales are thought to have a life expectancy of between 60 and 120 years in the wild.
Out at sea, these mesmerizing huge salt water ocean mammals can be spotted during good weather at a considerable distance. This is because of the up to 12 m height of their powerful blows that they release on the ocean surface. They usually swim quite slowly, but can travel at over 30 km/h if they are chased. Young blue whales have been seen breaching, but adults rarely seem to do this. These appearance facts make blue whale watching quite popular and sought out by vacationers.
Blue Whale Enormous Size
The biggest of all animals on this planet and largest mammal to have ever lived, blue whales are massive. Reaching lengths of up to 100 feet long and weighing an enormous 200 tons.
The Blue Whale Heart is Spectacular in Size
All of this flesh takes an equally-massive amount of fuel and organs big enough to power it. The blue whale has the biggest heart ever, as big as a mini cooper, with the pumping power that can be heard up to two miles away. Blue whales can also claim the title of the loudest animal on earth, belting out calls of up to 188 decibels in strength.
You’ll definitely know you’ve come near a blue whale, but, thankfully there’s nothing to fear, these gentile giants only feed exclusively on tiny microscopic organisms called krill. Their mouths are lined with hundreds of baleen plates. These plates which are like rows of bristles on a brush, end up catching thousands of tiny krill with each gulp of water.
Lifestyle of the Blue Whale
Blue Whale Diet and Feeding Behavior
You’re more likely to find this mammoth sized whale flying solo than in a group out on the ocean. However, that isn’t the rule, as they will often pair up for breeding and for feeding in teams. Blue whales will hunt krill in massive amounts together to ensure the biggest catch.
They will herd them into a bunch, similar to how schools of fish are rounded up by predators, using vibration and sound. The blue whale has a huge diet need. Therefore, giving it the loudest calls in nature that can quickly bring millions of krill into a giant feeding ground.
Typical feeding behavior consists of diving for 15 minutes at a time of depths up to 100 meters deep. Blue whale diets consist of the need to eat four tons of krill every day when they are feeding during the summer, this is why group feeding is ideal.
But, the large salt water mammals diet is unique, meaning they only need to feed during the summer. The rest of the year is spent migrating and living off of stored fat. The life of this huge saltwater mammal isn’t complicated, that’s probably why they’ve survived for so long as the biggest mammal on Earth.
Blue Whale Breeding
Moms give birth to one calf every two or three years. The baby will emerge up to 14 feet long and tipping the scales at four tons. After that, they will put on 200 pounds each day, drinking 50 gallons of milk each day for the next 7-8 months. Blue whales reach maturity from as early as five years, to as late as ten years old.
Mating is still a very secretive and rarely witnessed event. Scientists find it very difficult to collect data on these whales when breeding due to a lack of resources and manpower. Its hard to get people to work for free, and fuel is not free by any means.
The Blue Whale Has An Endangered Future Ahead
Blue Whale Watching is Endangered if so are the Whales
Population of blue whales by the numbers
The population of these salt water mammals is estimated between only 10-20,000 individuals. Their population numbers were much higher before the early 1900’s when blue whales were killed in massive quantities.
Over 360,000 were eliminated in the Antarctic region alone. They’re the most endangered whale, with populations hanging in the balance. This is all thanks to threats from both global climate change and illegal whaling.
Not to mention that some of the blue whales that we see today are not the original species that once roamed the Earth’s waters in great numbers. These are called pygmy blue whales.
Like other huge whales, blue whale endangered populations are undermined by synthetic and sound contamination. Things like environmental destruction, over fishing of krill, and ship strikes do not help. Also getting trapped in commercial angling gear along with the others all have negative affects.
Environmental changes could likewise majorly affect its sustenance supply. If an unnatural weather change occurs then the related sea fermentation may affect krill populaces.
Also, frontal zones – basic whale living spaces – are anticipated to move south because of temperature change. Frontal zones are limits between various water masses, where water can ascend from the depths. Thus, carrying with it a lot of supplements that empower the development of krill and bolster considerable populaces of prey species for whales.
Why is the Blue Whale Endangered?
These ocean giants were aggressively targeted by whalers because they were a particularly valuable prize. Now their populations remain greatly depleted even after new authorities have put new ordinances in place to protect the population.
Hunting these poor endangered specie of whales has been banned since 1966. However, this poor endangered whales meat occasionally shows up in Japanese markets to this day labelled as that of other species. They are primarily threatened by ship strikes, noise, and chemical pollution. This threatens the blue whale watching way of life and means of earning a living for many guides that supply tours of these mammals.
Blue Whale Watching Endangered Species Efforts for Survival
Their IUCN status is endangered worldwide, with some populations such as the Antarctic blue whale considered a critically endangered specie.
Still, the mighty blue whale continues to live happily as we merrily go about booking our blue whale watching excursions to keep our eyes on them . With new protection groups actively working on preserving this creature, their chances for survival are looking far greater than they were in the past. Blue whale watching enthusiasts will be happy that they can actually have a chance to see these epic giants in the future now.
The business of whaling of the species has been restricted since 1966, and all worldwide exchange of the species is disallowed thus of its posting on Appendix I of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). Also in Appendix I of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS also known as the Bonn Convention).
The blue whale appears in various ensured regions all through its range for securing the entire biological community. There are also whale asylums in the Antarctic, Indian, and Southern waters.
These whales are secured by various global understandings and a few nations have executed research and protection programs for the species. These incorporate distinguishing zones of basic natural surroundings, examining species wealth and circulation, and relieving the dangers to the species. The IWC is the coordinating body for whale research and protection programs.
Understanding the whale’s behavior is still an on-going project. For example, in Sri Lanka, the Blue Whale Project studies whale migration patterns in order to prevent them from dying due to crossing paths with shipping trade routes.
A similar effort was launched in California, where the data has been so effective, that it has contributed to the only noteworthy increase in the whale population numbers. They have seen a growth of over 2,000 members since preservation efforts began.
Migration and Habitat of the Mighty Blue Whale
This whale specie is inclined more toward profound deep sea waters than to shallow beach front waters. Groups move towards the arctic, into cooler waters, in the late spring to eat.
They relocate back towards the equator, into hotter waters, in the winter to breed. Since the seasons are inverse in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. The net after effect of these developments is that the Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere whale stocks don’t interfere.
Blues would need to migrate large distances (maybe 200-500 km more) to reach and eat at these nourishment rich zones. These feedings are where they develop stores to manage themselves for whatever remains of the year.
These more extended relocation from the movement of warmer waters could threaten their well-being. This occurs by lessening the span of the primary feeding season for blue whales around the globe.
As frontal zones move southward, they additionally draw nearer together. Thus, decreasing the general territory of rummaging environment that is accessible. Which then also effects krill population numbers.
Blue Whale Sounds
Often seen singly or in pairs, these mystical creatures have loud, deep voices that carry great distances. This makes it possible to be in contact with others of their own kind hundreds or even more than a thousand kilometers away. Most blue whales are thought to migrate between tropical and polar waters making watching them tricky at times.
In general, they go to warm, low latitude tropical waters during the winter season to breed and give birth. In summer they migrate to cooler, high latitude polar waters to feed. During this migration and on the winter breeding grounds, they are thought to eat virtually nothing for at least four months. Then after they live solely on energy from body reserves. These are good times and spots for blue whale watching.
8 Blue Whale Facts for Whale Watching Tourists
These whales are more than giant krill-vacuums roaming the sea, they’re filled with wonder and surprises. Here are just a few facts about blue whales that you probably never knew:
First Blue Whale Fact: There are 5 Species
B. m. musculus refers to the populations of this whale found in the north Pacific and the north Atlantic.
B. m. intermedia describes the Antarctic form
B. m. brevicauda (also known as the “pygmy” blue whale) describes the population found in the southern Indian Ocean (excluding Antarctica).
B. m. indica has been assigned to the blue whales found in the northern Indian Ocean and
B. m. unnamed subspecies refers to the population of blue whales found in Chilean waters.
7 More Awesome Blue Whale Facts for Avid Whale Watchers
- They’re both big, they’re both powerful, but they live very distinct lives, however, blue whales and hippopotamuses are distant cousins. Blue whales evolved directly from them, they simply evolved fins out of the short, stubby legs. Then they grew a big tail, and flattened out to become the widest mouth in the sea.
- How big is a blue whale’s mouth, you say? Well, you could line up with 99 of your biggest friends and you would all fit. However you need not worry, whales don’t have teeth, so you wouldn’t be in any danger.
- Blues have enormous lungs, they can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes while feeding. When this whale exhales, the surrounding water spray can reach up to thirty feet in the air.
- These whales are in fact naturally slow swimmers, moving at a casual pace of 5 miles per hour. However, if they since any danger nearby, they can quickly turn on the gas. These huge mammals can accelerate up to 39 miles per hour, thanks to their powerful tails.
- Blue whales never stop moving, in fact, even while they’re sleeping. That’s because they only shut off half their brain to recharge their batteries at a time. This keeps them from drowning and from ever being a target by opportunists, like the killer whale.
- This whale’s song is the loudest on Earth. They will often communicate with other blue whales miles away. They use heavy bellows and harmonious mews. Scientists even propose that whale songs can travel hundreds of miles away. This powerful calling can also be used to confuse krill, when used in a group. It is also good as well for echolocation purposes to navigate glaciers and around islands.
- Did you know the fact that these blue whales aren’t actually blue? The water only makes them appear bluer than they’re real colors. They are actually more grey than anything, but their bellies are also more yellow than white. This is thanks to discoloration from a common form of marine algae that are found in arctic environments.
Coming Soon: Whale Hunting: What happened and how was it stopped? Or was it just slowed down.