Facts About the Biggest Whales in the Ocean
At the turn of the 20th century, our vast oceans were a plenty with baleen whales. What has happened to them? The Blue Whale is the largest baleen whale and the biggest living creature ever to breathe on our planet. These creatures make sounds that travel hundreds of kilometers yet we cannot hear these sounds without special equipment. They also eat thousands off kilograms of food every day, and they live as long as we do.
Scientists and Oceanographers are constantly carrying out research on the Blue Whale in an attempt to assist in the survival of this magnificent creature which experts now estimate number less than 10 000 worldwide. Up until recently, one of the greatest mysteries of the sea was where these whales are born.
The Blue Whales can swim very far off shore surfacing for few seconds at a time. In late summer however many of these creatures gather to feed. Researchers then have a chance to tag them. They can then track them during the winter migration south with satellite tags. With this information, researchers have discovered that these whales mate and give birth in the tropics.
Blue Whales feed during the winter when they mate and give birth. They are twice the size of more commonly known whales. Experts know little about them. An adult female Blue Whale can weigh almost 180 tones which is heavier than 25 fully grown elephants. The heart alone is the size of a small car and weighs close to 500 kilograms. They grow to be as long as three buses.
Blue Whales can also make some of the loudest calls of any animal, but we require special technology to hear them. Scientists are capable of decoding certain sounds made by certain whales and attempt to interpret what they may mean by comparing the acoustic signals to the behavior observed.
Blue Whales do not have teeth. When they open their mouths, pleats of skin allow their throat to expand letting them suck in krill and tiny crabs. Plankton and krill make up nearly all of the diet of the Blue Whale. The largest animal on the planet feeds on one of the smallest. It takes around one metric ton of krill to fill a Blue Whales stomach, and they can devour three and a half tons of these small shrimp-like crustaceans every day.
Scientists attach probes to the whales via suction. The sounds the researchers are particularly interested in are the sounds of ships in the shipping lanes. The researchers hope that the information from these probes can answer questions such as how loud the sounds of the ships are compared to the whale and whether and how the noise from these ships affect the whales. The data may reveal whether the whales’ voracious appetite places them in peril from the shipping lanes. They use this data to identify danger zones.
Cousins of the Blue Whale, humpbacks, generally do not eat during the winter months when they are mating and calving. Blue Whales, however, are three times heavier than their relatives. The Whale Watching San Diego tour companies are registered as an official tour operator and happily advertise the information to visitors before the tickets cruise are purchased
Some of the higher density areas that Blue Whales use and return through every summer to feed are intersecting with areas of increasing shipping traffic. Ships are now not only becoming more numerous but they are bigger and faster as they supply more and more goods to the harbors of the world. This is the recipe for disaster for the whales. Could it be that after surviving the sharks and the whaling that ships strikes now pose the biggest threats to the survival of the Blue Whale?
Research offers the best hope for new shipping paths that will give the largest of the baleen whales the space they need. The challenge for protecting the Blue Whales has only just begun. For these almighty animals to have a chance we must respect the oceans for the decades ahead… for all creatures great and small…. but in this case mainly for the great.