Swimming in this ocean right now, there are blue whales who can grow to more than 90 feet in length and over 200 tons (400,000 lbs) in weight. Blue whale milk contains 18 megajoules (MJ) per kg, which is roughly 4,302 Kilocalorie/kg. 6.  With additional satellite tagged animals (n=10), reported mean swim speeds of 108 ± 33.3 km/day, ranging 58–172 km/day. They mainly catch their food by diving, and descend to depths of approximately 500 m. The blue whale has a wide head, a small dorsal fin located near the fluke, and 80–100 long grooves running lengthwise down the throat and chest.  The main prey species of krill targeted by blue whales varies among habitat in the different ocean basins. Blue whales are blue-gray in colour with lighter gray mottling in the form of large spots, which appear as if they were dabbed on with a huge paintbrush.  Female blue whales are larger than males.  The most recent estimate is between 1,000–2,000 off the east coast of Greenland, Denmark Strait, Iceland, Jan Mayen, Faroe Islands, west coast of Ireland, and north of the United Kingdom. 2. The blue whale is a cetacean and is classified scientifically within the order Cetacea as a rorqual (family Balaenopteridae) related to the gray whale (family Eschrichtiidae) and the right whales (Balaenidae and Neobalaenidae) of the baleen whale suborder, Mysticeti. Mounted blue whale skeletons can be found prominently, in the entrance hall to the Natural History Museum (London, UK); the Seymour Marine Discovery Center at Long Marine Laboratory at the University of California, Santa Cruz (California); the Melbourne Museum (Australia); Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History (California); New Bedford Whaling Museum (Massachusetts); North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (Raleigh, NC); Iziko South African Museum (Cape Town, South Africa); Canadian Museum of Nature (Ottawa); Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto, Canada); Beaty Biodiversity Museum at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada); Zoological Museum of the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (St. Petersburg, Russia); Iceland Husavik Museum (Húsavík, Iceland), the Museum of South-East Sulawesi (Kendari, Indonesia), the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (Wellington, New Zealand) and the Marine Science Museum at Tokai University (Tokyo, Japan).  In the western North Atlantic, there were an estimated 1,100–1,500 prior to modern whaling, and in the eastern North Atlantic, estimates range from a “few thousand” to 10,000 blue whales in the Denmark Strait and 2,500 from northern Norway. Prior to the survey, only a couple of animals have been observed in this area after mass hunting in the early 20th century.  In 1986, a 70 ft (21.3 m) pregnant female whale was caught. , For Antarctic blue whales, a single calf is born at 23 ft (7 m) in length and weighs 2.8-3 tons (2540–2722 kg). However, the International Union for Conservation of Nature still lists the blue whale as an endangered species.  Researchers speculate that there may be between 400 and 1,500 individuals. It was hunted almost to the point of extinction by whaling until the International Whaling Commission banned all hunting of blue whales in 1967. This quiz will take you through 36 of the hardest questions from Britannica’s most popular quizzes about the sciences. , The mottling pattern is highly variable and the unique pigmentation pattern along the back in the region of the dorsal fin can be used to identify known individuals.  estimated 671 (279–1613) pygmy blue whales from a line-transect survey of a small area off the southern coast of Australia. A female blue whale gives birth a calf in every 2-3 years. The northern subspecies, B. m. musculus  is found in the North Pacific and North Atlantic, although given the geographic separation and genetic differences, populations in these two regions are unlikely to be closely linked. , Blue whales are rorquals, in the family Balaenopteridae whose extant members include the fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus), sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis), Bryde’s whale (Balaenoptera brydei), Eden's whale (Balaenoptera edeni), common minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), Antarctic minke whale (Balaenoptera bonaerensis), Omura's whale (Balaenoptera omurai), and humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae). Twenty-five elephants in a row are equal to one blue whale in size. , Blue whales were referred to as ‘Sibbald’s rorqual’, after Robert Sibbald, who first described the species. Omissions?  In 1983 a 65 ft (19.8 m) long male specimen taken was 65 ft long and sexually immature.  Pygmy blue whales were estimated to give birth every 2.6 years (95% CI=2.2–3.0). This article was most recently revised and updated by, https://www.britannica.com/animal/blue-whale, blue whale - Children's Encyclopedia (Ages 8-11), blue whale - Student Encyclopedia (Ages 11 and up), International Union for Conservation of Nature.  This monophyletic clade is nested in Cetartiodactyla, which includes the even-toed ungulates. The Eastern North Pacific blue whale tonal frequency is 31% lower than it was in the early 1960s. In the 1930–31 season alone the worldwide kill of blue whales exceeded 29,000.  Recovery and current population sizes vary regionally and by subspecies.  The blue whale was once abundant in nearly all the oceans on Earth until the end of the 19th century. The Northern Indian Ocean subspecies, B. m. indica  is found from Somalia to southern Arabia to the southwest coast of India, and off the coasts of Sri Lanka and the Maldives, with an apparent breeding season six months out of phase from pygmy blue whales.  A and B calls are often produced in repeated co-occurring sequences as song only by males, suggesting a reproductive function.  Male pygmy blue whales averaged 61.4 ft (18.7 m) at sexual maturity. For instance, research conducted off South Africa found that the longest penis of an immature categorized whale was 96 centimetres (38 in) and the smallest penis of a mature whale was 95 centimetres (37 in). , The blue whale is the largest known animal. The reported take of all North Pacific blue whales by commercial whalers totaled 9,773 between 1905 and 1977..  They can consume 34,776–1,912,680 kJ (~480,000 kilocalories) from one mouthful of krill, which can provide up to 240 times more energy than used in a single lunge. B. m. indica is currently considered a blue whale subspecies.  From 1866–1978, more than 380,000 blue whales were taken, mostly from Antarctic waters.  One hypothesis is that as blue whale populations recover from whaling, this is increasing sexual selection pressure (i.e., lower frequency indicates larger body size), although given the difficulties in measuring length from living whales, there is little evidence for changes in body size since whaling ended. At 31 meters (102 ft) in length and up to 190 tonnes (210 short tons) in weight, it is the largest extant animal and is the heaviest known to have existed. The gestation period is 12 months. It isn’t until the whale dives under the water that it appears to be a solid blue color.  An acoustic boundary between the Western Australia/Indonesia population and the Eastern Australia/New Zealand population has been identified as the junction of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.. Northern subspecies (B. m. musculus) – North Atlantic population: Little is known about the winter distribution and migration patterns of this population in the North Atlantic. , Pygmy subspecies (B. m. brevicauda) – Madagascar population: This population is found off the Seychelles and Amirante Islands, through the Mozambique Channel to the Crozet Islands and Prince Edward Islands in the spring and summer, with a nearly continuous distribution in sub-Antarctic waters in the Indian Ocean in the summer.  Herman Melville called the blue whale "sulphur bottom" in his novel Moby Dick due to the accumulation of diatoms creating a yellowish appearance on their pale underside.  D calls are produced by both sexes during social interactions while foraging and may considered multi-purpose contact calls.  Recent evidence of a new song type off Oman and north-west Madagascar (and the absence of the Sri Lanka song type there) suggests there might be a separate north-western Indian Ocean population making “Oman” calls and a central Indian Ocean population making “Sri Lanka” calls. The calf of a blue whale is around 7 metres in length, around the same as an adult African elephant.  Blue whale inner ears appear well adapted for detecting low-frequency sounds. Blue Whale Interesting Facts and Features.  Mating is thought to occur fall through winter.  There has been one photograph-identification match between an individual blue whale in Iceland and Mauritania and one match between an individual blue whale in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Azores, suggesting connectivity among blue whales in the region. Get exclusive access to content from our 1768 First Edition with your subscription.  estimated the hearing range of cetaceans to extend from approximately 7 Hz to 22 kHz.  The water is then squeezed out through their baleen plates with pressure from the ventral pouch and tongue, and the remaining krill are swallowed. See the article whaling.…, …that has ever lived, the blue whale, which reaches a length of more than 30 metres (100 feet) and a weight of 180 metric tons (nearly 200 short [U.S.] tons). The Blue Whale is the largest animal on the planet meaning that numerous organs are much, much bigger than those found in any other animal. Despite having the greatest haplotype diversity of any subspecies, the Antarctic subspecies of blue whales is recognized as one stock for management purposes. To keep up their size, blue whales feed solely on Krill, a little crustacean that just grows a couple of inches long. 1. Blue whale size compared to an average human. 4.  Little is known about mating behavior, or breeding and birthing areas. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. The International Whaling Commission’s whale watching guidelines, mirror these recommendations to minimize risk and adverse impacts on whales, including noise disturbance. Blue whale, (Balaenoptera musculus), also called sulfur-bottom whale, the most massive animal ever to have lived, a species of baleen whale that weighs approximately 150 tons and may attain a length of more than 30 metres (98 feet).
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