The gentle giants of the oceans are the biggest creatures on the planet, reaching lengths of over 33 m (108 ft) and weighing up to 200 tonnes; yet, they are not immune to human-caused threats. Long, streamlined shape, broad heads, distinctive U-shaped arch, mottled blue or gray back, and light underbelly make them readily recognized.
In the summer, they feed on the polar regions; in the winter, they migrate to tropical waters to breed and have babies. They gulp a mouthful of water and catch shrimp-like tiny krills using the top jaw’s baleen filters. They enjoy conversing with one another.
Hunted almost to extinction just a few decades ago, we’re still missing vital information about how to protect the blue whales, racing against time.
March 2023: The government of Chile announced plans to establish a new marine protected area in the waters off the coast of Patagonia, which will provide important habitat for blue whales as well as other marine wildlife.
Jan 2023: A new study published in the journal Marine Policy found that shipping noise is a major threat to blue whales in the waters off the coast of California, where large numbers of ships pass through each year.
2022: A new study reveals blue whales consume around 10 million microplastic pieces daily.
Sep 2022: MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company has altered the paths of its vessels in response to International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) suggestions, thus safeguarding blue whales along the coast of Sri Lanka.
Feb 2022: The government of Canada announced plans to invest $17 million in new measures to protect and conserve blue whales in the country’s waters, including reducing ship strikes and improving prey availability.
Did you know?
- They are twice the size of the biggest dinosaur, a Volkswagen Beetle-sized heart. Even their babies are seven meters long and weigh the same as an adult African elephant.
- They are the loudest animals on the planet; their calls reach 188 dB, even louder than a jet engine that hits 140 dB.
- These whales consume a relatively limited diet and will go without food for up to 4 months during migration, living off the stored fat collected during feeding season.
- Water provides buoyancy, allowing them to grow enormously large, with no strong skeletal framework or muscular limbs.
- Blue whales were once abundant throughout the Gulf of Alaska, but none have been spotted there in post-whaling era studies.
- Conservation groups have urged for one of the world’s busiest shipping routes to be rerouted to safeguard an endangered blue whale colony. Increased shipping traffic around Sri Lanka’s southern tip endangers the world’s largest animal. The Wales habitat overlaps a key shipping channel connecting East Asia to the Swiss Canal. This exposes the colony to ship strikes and noise pollution. Marine researchers now believe that a minor change in the shipping lane could have a significant impact on the conservation of the blue whale colony. A 15 nautical mile southward deviation from the current route reduces collision risk by 95%.
- The age of a whale can be estimated via wax-like earplugs, just as growth rings in trees. 8. Approximately 360,000 blue whales were killed between 1900 and to mid-1960s.
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Terrestrial / Aquatic
Altricial / Precocial
Polygamous / Monogamous
Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic
Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal
Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd
Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore
Migratory: Yes / No
Domesticated: Yes / No
Dangerous: Yes / No