Blue whales – the gentle giant of the ocean!! There is something about these enormous mammals that captures the imagination and holds a special place in our hearts.
When you think about it, though, how much do you actually know about them beyond the fact that they are the largest animal in the world? Well, you have come to the right place! Here are fourteen fun facts about blue whales to help you appreciate them even more.
1. They are enormous!
This is as good a place to start as any. Even the youngest wildlife enthusiasts will probably be able to tell you that the blue whale is the largest animal on earth, but what does that mean? On average, blue whales can grow up to 33 meters long and weigh over 330,000 pounds. To help put that into perspective, humans are to blue whales as mice are to humans! An average-sized human would have no problem swimming through the arteries of a blue whale (though we wouldn’t recommend it!).
2. How well can they dive?
Blue whales are excellent divers. The greatest depth recorded for a diving blue was 315 meters, with the longest time actually spent under the water before coming up for oxygen being a whopping 15 minutes.
3. How do they age?
The average lifespan of a healthy blue whale is estimated to be between 80 to 90 years. The oldest whale ever found and examined by scientists was believed to be 110 years of age. A recent development in research has found that an effective way to age a deceased blue whale is by counting the layers of its wax-like earplugs.
4. What do they eat?
Ironically, a blue whale’s diet almost exclusively relies on consuming huge amounts of the ocean’s smallest food. Over the course of four months, a blue whale will eat up to 3,600 kilograms of krill every single day!
5. How do they eat?
In order to catch as much krill as possible in one go, a blue whale will dive down to the depths of the ocean where the supply is much more abundant. Being the largest animal on the planet means that they have the single largest mouthful capacity on the planet as well! They do this by filtering the plankton and krill-filled water through their baleen plates, which are the sieve-like teeth.
6. How often do they breed?
A blue whale reaches the age to have offspring between 5 to 10 years old. On average, a female blue whale will give birth to a calf every two to three years after this period. The gestation period is 10 to 12 months. The process involves an elaborate courting period before the male whale internally fertilises the female’s egg with its sperm.
7. How quickly do calves grow?
A newborn blue whale calf comes out at around 4000 kilograms in weight and 8 meters in length. At a healthy rate, they can gain as much as 90 kilograms every single day after birth. The growth of a young blue whale is believed to be one of the fastest processes in the animal world. To achieve this growth, a calf needs to consume around 190 litres of milk every day.
8. Are there different species? Where can they be found?
- There are currently five identified subspecies of blue whale, all of which can be found in different parts of the world. These are:
- The Musculus is found in the North Atlantic and the North Pacific.
- The Intermedia lives in the Southern Ocean.
- The Brevicauda (also known as the pygmy blue whale) inhabits the Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean.
- The Indica in the Northern Indian Ocean.
- An unnamed subspecies lives in the waters off of Chile.
9. Do they have ‘homes’?
A blue whale doesn’t have a ‘home’ like some sea-dwelling creatures. They instead follow a migratory pattern that takes up the entire year and leads them towards the equator the closer it gets to winter. They will often spend their summers feeding in polar waters that at that time will be rich in krill.
10 How far do they travel?
On average, a blue whale will travel up to 3,100 miles over the course of a calendar year. They will do this at speeds of approximately 14 miles per hour, but if the need arises to go faster, then a blue whale can reach up to 30 miles an hour when doing a quick burst or a sprint.
11. Do they communicate with each other?
Blue whales communicate with one another using three main types of sounds. These are clicks, whistles and pulsed calls. Clicks are thought to be based on navigation and identifying surroundings. Whales will also sometimes use their fins and tails to make loud slapping noises on the surface of the water.
12. Are they social animals?
Although blue whales have been known to travel their migratory paths in small groups, and mothering whales will keep their offspring with them until a certain age of maturity, blue whales are believed to be mostly solitary creatures. It is very likely that a blue whale will live the majority of its decades-long life in isolation, but an isolation that it wants!
13. Do they have predators?
Sadly, the biggest predatory threat to the life of a blue whale is humanity. They are not hunted anymore, however, the lack of stewardship from humans, means our seas are becoming polluted, overcrowded with fishing boats and generally becoming inhospitable to marine life, which has a negative effect on the whales. An existential predator to the blue whale is the killer whale. Killer Whales (orca) like to prey on young blue whales, attacking them when they are not quite strong enough or fast enough to win a fight, and going on to eat their organs for much-needed sustenance. Once a blue whale has died, its carcass sinks to the bottom of the ocean where it is gratefully feasted on by a myriad of different species. It is sad to think of the loss of such an important creature, but its plentiful carcass helps to continue the circle of sea life.
14. What are their numbers like today?
This is probably the saddest part of the entire blue whale fact catalogue. Once upon a time, the oceans were abundant with blue whales in all areas of the world. That is, until humans began hunting and killing them at an alarming rate. Blue whale hunting was banned in 1967, but in the 100 years before that, it is estimated that almost 400,000 blue whales were hunted and killed in the world’s oceans. Today, the global blue whale population is believed to be somewhere in the region of 10,000 to 25,000, which is heartbreaking.
Now you know more about blue whales than you did before. If you didn’t think they were fascinating animals before reading this, then we hope that you do now! There is still so much to learn about blue whales and about the wider ocean in general.
Did you know that scientists know more about the infinite darkness of space than they do about the oceans on our own planet? Think about all of the secrets that are still left to be uncovered. You never know, one day we might end up discovering that blue whales are even more important and impressive than we think right now!
If you have the time watch this Video: