The blue whale The blue whale - Balaenoptera musculus is a marine mammal belonging to the suborder of baleen whales called Mysticetiis arguably the most impressive creature to live or have ever lived on this planet! At 30 metres (98 ft) in length and 180 metric tons or more in weight, it is in fact the largest animal ever known to have existed!
There are at least three distinct subspecies: B. m. musculus of the North Atlantic and North Pacific, B. m. intermedia of the Southern Ocean and B. m. brevicauda (also known as the pygmy blue whale) found in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean. B. m. indica, found in the Indian Ocean, may be another subspecies.
Blue Whale Habitat
Although blue whales should be able to roam the ocean freely, they are in fact tied to certain areas. This is because there are only a few places in the world - notably the Arctic and Antarctic - where enough planktonic food is available to sustain them.
However, the winter freezes up the waters in these areas forcing breeding whales to migrate each year to the warm waters of the tropics. Here the scarcity of plankton forces them to mainly live off their blubber.
Mating takes place in the warm waters of the tropics where the young are also born. Having only a thin layer of blubber, the young would be unable to survive in colder waters. At birth they measure about 7 metres and weigh approximately 7250 kg.
The mother may well be helped by other females to nudge the new born calf to the surface so that it can take its first breath of air. The baby is suckled in the water, drinking more than 600 litres of milk each day until it is seven months old and over 15 metres in length. By this time its baleen is developing. so that it can catch its own food.
So, just what does a Blue Whale eat?
The species of copepod zooplankton eaten by blue whales will vary from ocean to ocean. In the North Atlantic, Meganyctiphanes norvegica, Thysanoessa raschii, Thysanoessa inermis and Thysanoessa longicaudata are the usual food, while in the North Pacific, Euphausia pacifica, Thysanoessa inermis, Thysanoessa longipes, Thysanoessa spinifera, Nyctiphanes symplex and Nematoscelis megalops are takenn. Then, in the Antarctic, blue whales eat Euphausia superba, Euphausia crystallorophias and Euphausia valentin.
Blue Whales and Krill
Because krill move through the ocean levels, blue whales typically feed at depths of more than 100 metres (330 ft) during the day and only surface-feed at night. Dive times are typically 10 minutes when feeding, though dives of up to 20 minutes are common. The longest recorded dive is 36 minutes.
The blue whale feeds by lunging forward at groups of krill, taking the animals and a large quantity of water into its mouth. The water is then squeezed out through the baleen plates by pressure from the ventral pouch and tongue. Once the mouth is clear of water, the remaining krill, unable to pass through the plates, are swallowed. The blue whale also incidentally consumes small fish, crustaceans and squid caught up with krill.
The Future for Blue Whales
A 2002 report estimated there were 5,000 to 12,000 blue whales worldwide, located in at least five groups. More recent research into the Pygmy subspecies suggests this may be an underestimate. Before whaling, the largest population was in the Antarctic, numbering approximately 239,000 (range 202,000 to 311,000). There remain only much smaller (around 2,000) concentrations in each of the North-East Pacific, Antarctic, and Indian Ocean groups. There are two more groups in the North Atlantic, and at least two in the Southern Hemisphere.
Blue Whale Facts
The biggest male blue whale ever recorded was 31 metres long. Females are even better! The heaviest recorded weight is 178,000kg.
The blue whale was known as 'sulphur bottom' to English sailors because in northern waters it picked up greenish-yellow diatoms (algae) that disguised its colour.
The 'whalebone' onced used for ladies' corsets was the baleen, rather than the bone of whales.
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Photo care of http://www.pubarticles.com/article-blue-whales-return-for-the-first-time-in-40-years-1242720370.html and http://www.theozonehole.com/antarcticwildlife.htm and http://www.namibian.org/travel/marine-life/whales/blue-whale.html and http://www.poetsgraves.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=7561 and http://www.whales.org.au/discover/blue/blued.html
Based on an article by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_whale