Blue whales are the largest animal on the planet, and they are the kings of the sea with great sizes that dwarf dinosaurs.
They are found in all oceans other than the Arctic ocean. These giants are migratory animals and travel to where their food is abundant.
Blue whales get their names from their unique grey-bluish color that appears light blue underwater. They have a mottled look, almost like they have spots.
Their massive weight is incomprehensible to most. A staggering 136 tonnes is the average weight for a blue whale, and they can weigh as much as 30 elephants.
Sightings are rare, but they have been observed in the Gulf of California, Gulf of St. Laurence, the coast of California, and Sri Lanka, which are all popular feeding grounds for them.
Blue whales are most comfortable in the deep ocean, so they are challenging to observe. You will catch a peek when they surface for air if you are lucky.
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The blue whale is a part of the Balaenopteridae family, called the rorqual whales. In laypeople’s terms, the blue whale has throat grooves, which are essential to the blue whale’s feeding method.
Blue whales, bluish-grey in color, are found in all oceans except the Arctic Ocean. They are the largest animals on earth, and they have a sleek and slender appearance.
Despite their massive weight, blue whales can glide seamlessly through the water. Sometimes, blue whales travel in small groups, but they are most often observed alone or in pairs.
Their regular swimming pace is approximately 5 miles per hour when feeding or traveling, and they can reach up to 20 miles per hour for short periods. Their short bursts of speed are usually prompted by a threat or a need to hunt.
Blue whales are migratory animals and travel to find abundant food sources. They will migrate to warmer areas for reproducing.
There are five subspecies of blue whales. They are:
- Northern blue whale (B. m. musculus)
- Antarctica blue whale (B. m. intermedia)
- Northern Indian Ocean blue whale (B. m. indica)
- Chilean blue whale (un-named species)
- Pygmy blue whale (B.m. brevicauda)
The Pygmy blue whale is the smallest of all the species and is commonly found in the Southern Hemisphere.
The Antarctic blue whale is the largest of all the subspecies. Within all the subspecies of blue whales, the females are usually much larger than the males.
The blue whale can live up to 80 – 90 years old. Scientists can estimate a whale’s age by studying the earplugs found on deceased whales.
Blue whales can be identified by their long, sleek, bullet-shaped body. They have a large head that tapers into a sleek body, and you will see a lighter color underneath. Their bodies have two pectoral fins on either side to steer and a small dorsal fin on their back.
A giant fluke, or tail fin, propels the blue whale through the water. They move this fluke up and down, allowing them to travel quickly through the water. Their tail fin also enables them to dive deeply for food.
Blue whales are easily recognizable by their spouts. All whales have blowholes on their backs used to expel water when the whale surfaces.
A cloud of mist can be seen above most whales. You can quickly identify blue whales by the long narrow spray of water that they expel. Their spray can reach up to thirty feet.
In addition to being the largest animals on earth, blue whales are also the loudest. They produce pulses, groans, and moans that can be heard by other whales as far as 1000 miles away. They communicate at a range of 15 to 40 Hz, which is well below the threshold for humans.
A blue whale’s vocalizations are the most intense noise any animal makes, and they produce melodies that are often referred to as whale songs by scientists.
Whale songs are used for communicating. Blue whales will emit these intense sounds to find other pod members, locate other whales during their migration, look for a mating partner, or to claim territory.
Blue whales reach their sexual maturity between 5 and 15 years old, and their gestation period is 10 to 12 months. Mother blue whales will produce one calf at a time, and blue whales will mate every 2 to 3 years.
Scientists believe that male blue whales will use their whale songs to attract mates. The males are also known to inflate their throats and slap their fluke on the water’s surface. The deeper the music, the more drawn the female will be.
Baby blue whales will drink their mother’s milk for the first 6 to 18 months of life. Whales have no lips, so they are unable to suckle.
These mammals have a unique feeding process. The female whale has inverted mammary glands, which inject milk into the calf.
They begin to wean their calves at 6 -7 months, usually when they begin their migration trip. Most reproductive activity takes place during the winter season.
The blue whale can weigh a staggering 135 tonnes. You would think that blue whales would have to ingest large prey to maintain that kind of body mass.
Ironically, the largest animal on the planet feeds on the smallest creatures.
The diet of blue whales consists mainly of krill, and krill are tiny crustaceans found in the ocean. Scientists now believe that blue whales consume approximately 16 tonnes of krill daily, and they ingest 12% of their body weight each day.
Blue whales swim through a school of krill with their mouths open. They close their mouth around the krill and use their tongue and their baleen plates to filter their krill. The baleen plates work like a sieve.
Krill are usually found on the water’s surface at night, so blue whales often hunt at this time.
Krill are often found together in what is considered a swarm. During the day, krill swarms will be deeper, and the blue whale will dive to feed.
Dives can last up to ten minutes with turns and rolls that allow the blue whale to locate the krill. They can dive to a depth of 500m, and these rolls and turns can also be done when mating with another whale.
Blue whales are migratory animals. They move to higher latitudes in the summer for better feeding. They travel towards the poles in the spring to take advantage of the vast amount of krill.
When it cools, the blue whales will migrate towards the equator. Blue whales can consume 83% of the calories they need for the year in just 90 to 120 days.
When it comes to blue whales, the females are much larger than the males, and it is no surprise that two females hold the record for the largest animals.
Blue whale calves are born the same size as an African elephant, and they are the same as a small car, and their sheer size is overwhelming. Calves gain about 200 pounds per day, and they drink about 10% of their body weight in milk.
The average blue whale weighs about 136 tonnes and reaches 80 and 100 feet long. Some animals can match the blue whale’s length, and none come close to its massive weight.
In 1909, a female blue whale captured the title of the longest whale at 110 feet and 17 inches. This blue whale was found in South Georgia in the South Atlantic.
Unfortunately, the whale’s weight was never recorded, but the length was entered in the Guinness World Records as the longest mammal.
In 1947, a second record was broken by a female blue whale found in the South Atlantic. This whale weighed an impressive 418 878 pounds, an unbelievable 190 tonnes.
It would take about 27 elephants to match this weight, and this incredible weight was entered in the Guinness World Records as the heaviest animal.
As the population of blue whales increases, more research will be done to ensure that they continue to grow in numbers.
The Antarctic blue whale is the largest in the ocean. It can reach up to 400 000 pounds and 100 feet in length. Their heart is the biggest of any animal weighing in at 400 pounds.
Their tongues, which are essential to their feeding, can weigh as much as an elephant. Along with their immense size, Antarctic blue whales are the noisiest animals.
They emit sounds that rival a jet engine, and they use their vocal calls to signal other blue whales hundreds of miles away. Their sounds are incredibly loud underwater, but the human ear cannot hear them.
The Antarctic blue whale’s population was decimated in the early 1900s from commercial whaling. They were put on the endangered list and are now protected.
Scientists from the British Antarctic Survey in South Georgia were stunned to count 55 Antarctic blue whales in 2020.
South Georgia is a popular feeding ground for the blue whale. The population is finally rebounding after decades of protection.
The Antarctic blue whale has no natural predators because of its sheer size. Shark and other whale attacks can cause injury, but the real threat to blue whales are collisions with sea vessels. They can also get entangled in fishing nets, leading to their death.
Noise and water pollution are also threats to the blue whale population, and they will stop eating when their territories are invaded by noise.
Image how much an elephant weighs. Now imagine what thirty elephants would weigh. If you can wrap your mind around this massive number, you will know what a blue whale can weigh.
Blue whales are currently the largest animals on the planet. Blue whales are the largest animals that have ever lived on our earth, even bigger than the dinosaurs. There are no other living species that match the blue whales in weight.
The biggest dinosaur was the Patagotitan mayorum which was 120 feet long and weighed 69 tonnes. Although they are similar in length, the blue whale almost doubles its weight.
The largest reptile that lives among us is the saltwater crocodile weighing 2.2 tons, almost as much as a blue whale’s heart.
The largest elephant, the largest land animal, weighs approximately 7 tons. A blue whale calf is born the size of an elephant. The largest amphibian is the Chinese giant salamander which is only 110 pounds.
The largest fish is the whale shark which weighs about 20 tons. This is an impressive weight but still a fraction of the blue whale’s massive body mass.
Considering some of the largest living things that we share our earth with, the blue whale is the largest of any species.