Gray WhalesMigrating Baleen Whales
Gray Whale - Eschrichtius robustus
The eastern North Pacific Gray Whale population, those which winter in grounds along the Baja peninsula, spend their summers in feeding grounds throughout the Chukchi, Beaufort, and Bering Seas. They feed mainly on benthic invertebrates found in the muddy ocean floor, preparing for their long migration south. Gray Whales then make their way over 5,000 miles to their warm water breeding and calving lagoons in southern Baja California. They then rely on their blubber for energy while migrating and calving, although they can be seen feeding occasionally off the shores of Cabo San Lucas.
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- Gray/White coloration pattern, due to crustaceans on skin of whale.
- Very short baleen plates, designed for suction feeding.
- Lack of dorsal fin, replaced by a dorsal hump, followed by several knuckles.
- Lacks ventral grooves, which are present other whales, replaced by 2 to 5 deep creases.
- 2 Blowholes, which produce a V-shaped spout.
Migrating Gray Whales normally travel solo or in small groups, and have predictable diving and breathing patterns. Large aggregations can be seen in both feeding and breeding grounds, although the animal is not believed to be highly social. They tend to travel and migrate together mainly for protection, while mother/calf pairs can be seen for up to one year after the calf is born. Sexual maturity in attained between 6 and 12 years, and competition between males is relatively low.Instead Gray Whales engage in non-monogamous group mating. Gestation period is somewhere between 12 to 13 months and calves tend to be born around mid-January. Females produce an average of one calf every two years, while weaning takes from seven to nine months for young whales to become independent. The population of Gray Whales was diminished to only a few thousand by commercial whaling, but it is estimated that now there are over 22,000 Gray Whales world-wide.