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The Blue Whale

Endangered Animals > Mammals A-F

The blue whale is enormous. It is the largest animal on earth, ever. A big blue whale can be 100 feet long and weigh up to 150 tons. That's as large as a Boeing jet. Its heart is as large as a small car. Fifty people could stand on its tongue. Its spout shoots up at least 30 feet when it surfaces for air.

Blue whale calves enter the world already ranking among the planet's largest creatures. After about a year inside its mother's womb, a baby blue whale emerges weighing up to 3 tons (2.7 metric tons) and stretching to 25 feet (8 meters).

Blue whale

It gorges on nothing but mother's milk and gains about 200 pounds (91 kilograms) every day for its first year. Blue whales are among Earth's longest-lived animals. Scientists have discovered

 

that by counting the layers of a deceased whale's waxlike earplugs, they can get a close estimate of the animal's age. The oldest blue whale found using this method was determined to be around 110 years old. Average lifespan is estimated at around 80 to 90 years.

The blue whale is found mostly in cold and temperate waters. It prefers deeper ocean waters to coastal waters.The blue whale occurs in the Icelandic & Celtic Marine Ecosystems, Southern Caribbean Sea, and Sea of Cortez Global 200 Ecoregions. Also, approximately 2,000 blue whales live off the California Coast and migrate to Mexico, and Costa Rica. (Olson & Dinerstein 1998, Olson & Dinerstein 1999)

The blue whale

Like all whales, the blue whale is a mammal rather than a fish. It is warm-blooded, has lungs rather than gills, and nourishes its young with milk. A blue whale's milk supposedly tastes like a mixture of fish, liver, milk of magnesia, and castor oil. Bleech! But it's very rich and nourishing for baby blues. A baby blue whale drinks over 50 gallons of its mother's milk in a day. In its first several weeks of life, it gains 10 pounds an hour or a little over 200 pounds a day! When a baby blue whale is about 6 months old, it starts to eat small shrimp-like animals calledkrill. During its high feeding season, a blue whale consumes more than 4-6 tons of krill in one day.

In order to get that much to eat, a blue whale can expand its throat to take in as much as 50 tons of water in one gulp. Then it forces the water out through comb-like plates which keep the krill in and let the water filter out. These huge plates are called baleen. Baleen is made of the same material as our fingernails. All whaleshave amazing adaptations that help them survive in the ocean.

While we know a lot about whales and we are learning more every day, there are still some questions we haven't been able to answer. We know blue whales migrate from polar waters where they feed to warmer, temperate waters where they breed and have babies. But no one's sure how blue whales navigate these long distances. It's possible that they have the ability to detect the Earth's magnetic field and use it as a map or a compass. To a small degree, blue whales probably also use their eyes. Recently, some scientists have come up with a new theory about how blue whales navigate. Because blue whales can produce really loud sounds, it's possible that they use these sounds to sense geographical features of the ocean floor.

Saving of Blue Whale - The Endangered Animals

The blue whale is found in all major oceans of the world. Its populations have been severely depleted throughout its range due to commercial whaling, which ceased in 1964. There have been reports of increased sightings in some areas (for example, in 1988, blue whales were seen off of Jan Mayen Island, 1000 km (620 mi) west of Norway, for the first time in 30 years). Furthermore, there are trends of increase around Iceland and offshore of the west coast of the USA.

It was the whale hunting era, that diminished or decreased the whale count by such a massive number, that blue whales are endangered today. In the year 1931, 29,649 whales were killed. By 1966, the International Whaling Commission declared these whales as protected animals. Mostly, whaling was carried out by the fishing ships of the Soviet Union, in the Antarctic Ocean, which caused their numbers to decrease drastically. As already mentioned, it is often considered, that the major reason for whaling is the enormous size of the blue whales, that turned humans towards attacking them. These whales do not pose any threat to the humans though. In fact, many whales are victims of the heavy sea traffic, getting run over by ships, as they usually inhabit the surface waters. Their huge sizes mean that they do not have any natural predators in the sea. Humans are thus, the basic and most obvious reason for these blue whales being endangered today. The International Whaling Commission, has taken various steps to protect these wonderful creatures. Committees of experts have been formed to work against whaling, entrapment and predation of the blue whales. Besides, these creatures reproduce just one calf at a time, unlike other sea creatures. The female blue whale reproduces only once in two years, and hence their numbers do not increase a lot.

Between 10,000 and 25,000 blue whales are believed to still swim the world's oceans. Aggressive hunting in the 1900s by whalers seeking whale oil drove them to the brink of extinction. Between 1900 and the mid-1960s, some 360,000 blue whales were slaughtered. They finally came under protection with the 1966 International Whaling Commission, but they've managed only a minor recovery since then.

Blue whales have few predators but are known to fall victim to attacks by sharks and killer whales, and many are injured or die each year from impacts with large ships. Blue whales are currently classified as endangered on the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List.

All these factors, that have been mentioned above, contribute to support the fact that there are now less than 15000 left on the earth, making them critically endangered blue whales. Every human is responsible for answering the question, why are blue whales endangered? We can all make small contributions by doing our parts and save not only the blue whales, but any creature that has fallen into the list of endangered species.

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