10 Amazing Facts About Blue Whales That Would Surprise You
Blue whales have been a source of fascination among humanity for decades. These beautiful and majestic creatures have captivated our minds and imagination. Despite them being the largest animals to ever live, they exhibit an almost etheric beauty as they gracefully swim the Earth’s oceans.
Blue whales live in every ocean except the frozen parts of the Arctic that remain covered with ice. There are three distinct populations of blue whales including the North Pacific, North Atlantic, and southern hemisphere. They usually swim alone or in pairs, and occasionally can be seen in small groups. They are believed to form close attachments or bonds with one another. Their very large size may help them survive the long migration from their feeding grounds in the poles and breeding grounds in the tropics.
Unfortunately, commercial whaling in the 1900-1960s hit the blue whale population the hardest. The aggression of the whalers seeking whale oil for profit slaughtered around 330,000 blue whales. Experts view this once thriving species to now be considered endangered, on the verge of extinction. Blue whale population numbers are only three to ten percent of what they were before commercial whaling. Only 10,000-25,000 blue whales currently swim the world’s oceans.
In 1966, the International Whaling Commission finally gave blue whales protection and was able to cease the drastic decline of the population. Numbers have been slowly increasing, however the threat of extinction from commercial whaling has merely been replaced by “other man-made hazards, such as bycatch, collision with ships, ocean noise, and other forms of habitat degradation”. On top of that, their main source of food - krill - is now being commercially fished in the Southern ocean. As more and more krill is being taken from the ocean, the slow increase in the blue whale population may stop or reverse.
In order to understand the necessity of saving these beautiful creatures, one must first understand the creature itself. Here are 10 amazing facts about blue whales that would surprise you:
- Blue whales are the largest known animal to ever live on Earth, reaching lengths of 110 ft and weighing up to 330,000 pounds (150 tons). Alone, their tongues weigh as much as an elephant and their hearts as much as an automobile.
- Blue whales are the loudest animals on the planet and can be heard by other blue whales up to 1000 miles away. They communicate through a series of low frequency pulses, groans, and moans that can be as loud as 188 decibels. That would sound louder than a jet engine to human ears. Scientists also believe that they use their strong vocalization to not only communicate, but to sonar-navigate the ocean depths.
- Blue whales are among the longest-lived animals on Earth, with an average lifespan of 80-90 years. The oldest whale ever recorded was 100 years of age.
- Blue whales can gracefully cruise along the ocean waters at a steady 5 miles per hour, but can quickly speed up to 20 miles per hour when agitated.
- Blue whale calves are born already raking at one of the planet’s largest animals, weighing up to 3 tons and stretching up to 25 feet. Everyday it feasts on nothing but it’s mother’s milk, drinking 60 liters (158 gallons) per day, and gaining about 200 pounds every day during its first year of life.
- Females usually give birth to one calf at a time every 11-12 months.
- Despite being the largest animal on the planet, blue whales diet mainly consists of tiny shrimp-like aquatic creatures called krill. Blue whales can eat up to 12,000 pounds of krill in one day.
- Blue whales can dive down into ocean depths of 500 m to catch their food.
- Blue whales are baleen whales - meaning they have fringe plates of a mail-like material called baleen attached to their upper jaw. These act as a filtration system for them as they gulp in 500 kg of water (over 1000 pounds), expanding the pleated skin on their throat and belly to take it all in. They then use their massive tongue to force the water out through their baleen plates, leaving behind thousands of tiny krill, which are then swallowed.
- Besides the dangers posed by humans, blue whales have little threat or other predators. They have been known to fall victim to shark or killer whale attack, but many are killed or injured by colliding with large ships.