YOUR WEEKLY DOSE OF WOWZERS AND WONDER FROM THE NATURAL WORLD
Unlike a lot of the creatures we’ve featured in Wowzerful so far, this week’s featured pick, the blue whale, is absolutely massive.
Taking a look at these gentle giants gives us a peek at life on a scale that is pretty hard to imagine in a world inaccessible to most humans.
Let’s dive in!
Until the last century or so, blue whales were mostly a mystery. Whalers saw them as a resource to be harvested, with many varieties hunted to near extinction for their meat, oil, and baleen — a series of fringed plates at their mouth.
Fortunately, this ended in the 1960s, allowing us to still enjoy these majestic seafaring creatures today.
The ability to dive deeper and stay out at sea for extended periods of time has made it easier for scientists, explorers, and oceanographers to better research blue whales and other whale species.
As a result, they have discovered many surprising facts.
Did you know that blue whales aren’t just humongous, but graceful too?
Despite measuring up to 32 meters (105 ft) long and weighing as much as 200 tonnes (441,000 pounds), blue whales love to dance by doing underwater twirls, flips, and spins.
It’s been a long-established fact that whales are social creatures, swimming in small pods of two to four whales and communicating with each other freely.
Their calls are some of the loudest in the natural world, registering at up to 188 decibels. That’s louder than a jet engine!
Upon diving in alongside them, researchers found that though blue whales are carnivorous, they’re super friendly.
Like their cousins, the humpback whale, blue whales are also known to travel alongside researchers and make appearances for tourist ships and whale watching expeditions.
They don’t want to eat us, even though they could easily swallow us whole.
Instead, blue whales dine on krill — a tiny sea creature that is distantly related to shrimp.
This means the planet’s largest animal survives by eating some of its smallest!
Blue whales consume krill by the thousands. A single whale can eat up to 4 tons of prey in a single day!
They do this by using baleen to filter the seawater from the food.
They take one big mouthful — GULP! — and then shoot the water out of their mouth and through their baleen, catching the food for easy swallowing.
It’s kind of like draining the water from pasta… everything from the pot goes in the colander, but only tasty dinner remains!
Thanks to preservation efforts, we look forward to continuing to learn more about these giants of the deep.
80 – 90 years
All major oceans but the Arctic Ocean
Despite their size, blue whales can use their powerful tails to move through the water at up to 50 km/h (31 mph) with ease.
An adult blue whale’s tongue alone can weigh as much 3.6 tonnes or 8,000 pounds — that’s as much as a fully-grown female African elephant!
Blue whale babies (known as calves) weigh 2.7 tonnes or 6,000 pounds at birth and can measure up to 25 feet long!
Calves gain up to 91kg or 200 pounds per day while nursing. That’s a lot of milk!
Blue whales are sometimes called sulphur-bottom whales due to yellow algae, which sometimes grow on their underside.
Blue whales typically have 80 to 100 long grooves (known as ventral grooves) running from the mouth and down their throat and chest. These allow the whale’s throat to expand rapidly and help them dine on all that tasty krill!
Blue whales resurface for air, expelling air in a jet up to 9-metres (29.5 feet) tall from their blowhole every 5 to 15 minutes. But they can hold their breath for longer… you don’t want to try that at home!
While they typically stick to small groups, large gatherings of up to 60 whales sometimes form in areas with plentiful food supplies.
Explore the history of these massive denizens of the deep — and how museums depict them — in this video from The American Museum of Natural History.