Blue WhalesThe largest animal to have lived on planet Earth
Blue Whale - Balaenoptera musculus
The overall body shape of the Blue Whale is streamlined, except for ventral grooves which allow the mouth to greatly expand in size during feeding. From above, blue whales possess a flat, broad head, with a prominent single ridge which runs from the tip of the rostrum to the high splash guard. Only a few thousand Blue Whales remain in the world’s oceans today. In the early 1900’s they were hunted heavily for their blubber and were almost hunted to extinction, seeing this endangered giant is every whale watcher’s dream!
Identifying Characteristics of the Blue Whale:
- Enormous in size, this animal grows up to 100 feet in length.
- Gray/Blue coloration, with unique mottling patterns.
- Very tall, dense spout (30-40 feet), which can be seen for several miles.
- Relatively small dorsal fin (1-2 feet), which can be variably shaped.
Blue Whales are thought to reach sexual maturity between 5-15 years of age. Females give birth in winter, every 2-3 years, and the gestation period is 10-11 months. At birth, calves can be over 20 feet long and weigh 3 tons. Over the 7 month weaning process, Blue Whale calves will gain an average of over 200 lbs a day and grow up to 50 feet in length. These whales are thought to have a life span anywhere between 60-110 years, making them one of the oldest living mammals on the planet.
Like Humpback Whales, Blue Whales are very vocal creatures, producing songs which can last up to 2 minutes and continue repeating for several hours. Most of these vocalizations occur at very low frequencies >20 Hz, these sounds can travel further than audible sounds, allowing whales to communicate at distances up to 50 miles! The blue whale is also the loudest animal on Earth, with sounds as loud as 188 decibels, which is even louder than a shotgun blast! These sounds are thought to be contact calls, while those which are repeated are thought to be songs. Scientists believe these songs are population specific and can be used to monitor migration routes and population ranges.