Eschrichtius – Gray whale

Once called ‘devil fish’ by whalers due to their fighting behavior when hunted

One of the most striking features of the Gray whale is its lack of a traditional dorsal fin. Instead, this species possesses a series of knuckle-shaped bumps along the dorsal ridge towards the latter third of its back, a feature that distinguishes it from other whale species. Additionally, Gray whales are equipped with two blowholes on top of their head, a trait they share with other baleen whales. These dual blowholes enable the Gray whale to produce a distinctive heart-shaped spout or blow, especially visible on calm days, contributing to the awe and admiration they elicit from whale watchers.

Gray whales undertake one of the longest migratory journeys of any mammal on Earth, a biannual event that has captured the imagination of scientists and the public alike. In the spring and autumn, these whales embark on a monumental journey between their summer feeding grounds in the Arctic’s nutrient-rich waters to the warmer equatorial lagoons off the coast of Mexico, where females give birth to their calves. This migration, covering approximately 10,000 to 12,000 miles round trip, is a testament to their endurance and a crucial aspect of their life cycle, ensuring the safety of the newborns in the protected lagoons away from predators.

Despite their resilience and adaptability, Gray whales face significant challenges due to human activities. The increased risk of entanglement in fishing nets poses a considerable threat, often leading to injury or death. Pollution, including chemical contaminants and plastic debris, affects their health and the ecological integrity of their habitats. Furthermore, collisions with ships in busy maritime corridors can result in fatal outcomes for these gentle giants.