Essay on Blue Whale
A mammal is any vertebrate animal who nurses their young with milk out of a special mammary gland in mothers (Hickman, 2020). Aside from this, mammals have many other distinguishing features. Hair is a typical mammalian feature, as well as lower hinged jaws (Armstrong & Wilson, 2020). All mammals give birth to live young, except for echidnas and platypus who lay eggs (Hickman, 2020). They also normally have high parental care, and show advanced social behaviors as well (Armstrong & Wilson, 2020). It is said that mammals evolved from mammals like reptiles (Armstrong & Wilson, 2020). Mammals are among the most adaptable animals in the world, this is partially due to their ability to regulate body temperature (Armstrong & Wilson, 2020). There are more than 5,500 species of living mammals that inhabit a vast majority of the world (Armstrong & Wilson, 2020). Mammals are very diverse, they range from a bat that weighs less than a gram to the largest animal to ever live, the blue whale, weighing over 200 tons (Armstrong & Wilson, 2020).
One of the most unique animals on this planet is the blue whale. They differ from all other mammals, marine life, and even other whales. The blue whale has a wide head and a long torpedo shaped body (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2020). They are blue grey in color, with an underside that is lighter, and sometimes yellow in color due to a chemical reaction (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2020). They have a large fluke, or tail end, two pectoral fins, a small dorsal fin on their back (Team & Oldham, 2018). The blue whale’s scientific name is Balaenoptera musculus (Noonan, 2003) Blue whales are in the phylum Chordata, the family Balaenopteridae, and classify as a Mammal (Noonan, 2003). Despite the fact of being a marine animal, they give live birth and nurse their young through a mammary gland.
A calf weighs around 2.5 tones and measures 22 feet long. A calf will drink 130 gallons of milk a day and gain around 200 pounds per day (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2020). Within a year a calf will grow to 60 feet long and start feeding on krill (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2020). The gestation period is around 12 months, and a calf will stay by their mothers’ side for 7-8 months (Team & Oldham, 2018). Blue whales have calf’s every 2-3 years (Team & Oldham, 2018). They usually reach sexual maturity at 6-7 years old (Noonan, 2003). A fully grown adult blue whale can weigh up to 200 tons and measure over 110 feet (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2020).
Females are typically larger than the males (Noonan, 2003). A blue whale is even larger than dinosaurs (Team & Oldham, 2018). The largest dinosaur known to man weighed 100 tons, half of the size a blue whale can be (Team & Oldham, 2018). The blue whale has that beat by more than double. The tongue alone of a blue whale weighs 2.7 tons, and their oral cavity can hold up to 90 tons of food and water at the same time (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2020). However, their esophagus is narrow and can not swallow an object bigger than a beach ball (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2020). Not only do they have large tongues, but the biggest heart out there. Their heart resembles the size of a small car, weighing over 1300 pounds (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2020).
You would think a 200-ton animal would need a massive prey, however these giants feed on shrimp-like creatures called krill (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2020). Their diet is based solely on these tiny creatures. They need to eat around 40 million krill per day to survive (Team & Oldham, 2018). Blue whales can spend up to 50 minutes on a dive for food (Noonan, 2003). They create a circular trap of bubbles while diving to gather a group of krill in one small area and trap them inside their large oral cavity (Team & Oldham, 2018). Blue whales have 300 baleen plates that filter the water out (Team & Oldham, 2018). The baleen plates are made of keratin which is the same material found in hair and fingernails (Noonan, 2003). On a dive a blue whale can make swift turns and 360 degree turns in order to catch its prey (Noonan, 2003).
They spend most of their summers filling up on krill in polar waters of the Arctic and Antarctic oceans (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2020). After feeding season they head toward warmer tropical waters near the equator for the winter where they mate and give birth (Noonan, 2003). When blue whales begin their migration, pregnant and older whales go first, with the youngest to follow (Team & Oldham, 2018). Their groups are usually based off age and sex (Team & Oldham, 2018). During the long period of migration, they eat virtually nothing and live off fat storages (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2020) . Blue whales travel alone or in groups of 2 to 4, but in some cases where the food is vast up to 60 whales can be spotted together (Noonan, 2018). Blue whales inhabit every ocean across the world (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2020). They live in artic, tropical, subtropical, and temperate seas (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2020). Southern hemisphere blue whales usually exceed the size of northern hemisphere blue whales (Noonan, 2003).
Due to the immense size of blue whales are not usually a choice of prey. Calves stay close to their mothers to protect themselves from killer whales, but once blue whales grow that threat fades away (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2020). Primitive whalers were not a threat to blue whales due to the massive size of the whale it was difficult for them to hunt them (Noonan, 2003). Their hand carved boats and spears were a little threat to blue whales. It wasn’t until the use of steamboats, new whale inflation techniques, and exploding harpoon guns that the whalers could harm these animals (Noonan, 2003). One blue whale could produce up to 120 barrels of oil, and that is what these whalers were after (Noonan, 2003). Blue whales used to have a population of 350,000, but these individuals shrunk that by almost 95% (Noonan, 2003). In the 19th and 20th century blue whales were hunted so heavily that there are under 10,000 left (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2020). It was not until 1966 that there was a ban placed on the hunting of blue whales (Team & Oldham, 2018). Blue whales are an endangered species (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2020). Large boats remain a threat to blue whales (Team & Oldham, 2018). The lifespan of a blue whale ranges from 35-80 years, but some blue whales are said to have lived over 100 years (Team & Oldham, 2018).
The blue whale is the biggest animal in the world, and the biggest animal to have ever lived (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2020). They are unique due to their extreme size and diet of some of the smallest animals on earth. The blue whale is the size of 33 elephants (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2020). Not only are they the largest animal, but the loudest animal on this planet (Noonan, 2003). Their calls can be heard from hundreds of miles away (Noonan, 2003). As of 2018 there are as little as 3,000 blue whales (Team & Oldham, 2018). The good news is that they are slowly increasing in numbers (Team & Oldham). This year there were 55 blue whales spotted, which is a promising number to scientists (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2020). They have a critical place in the ocean’s food chain, as they consume an impeccable amount of krill. We would not only be losing an amazing piece of history, but a valuable source to our ocean’s ecosystems. The preservation of our ocean’s wildlife is important. I have developed a great understanding for wildlife and the importance of the sustainability of our ecosystems. Blue whales fascinate me, before I would consider them untouchable due to their extreme size, but after my studies I have come to realize there are very few things humans can not make an impact on.
Armstrong, D., & Wilson, D. (2020, February 10). Mammal. Retrieved September 27, 2020, from https://www.britannica.com/animal/mammal
Encyclopedia Britannica, T. (Ed.). (2020, May 27). Blue Whale. Retrieved September 6, 2020, from https://www.britannica.com/animal/blue-whale
Hickman, C. P. (2020). Integrated principles of zoology. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.
Noonan, M., PhD. (2003). Blue Whales. Retrieved September 06, 2020, from http://www.conservenature.org/learn_about_wildlife/marine_mammals/blue_whale.htm
Team, A., & Oldham, C. (2018, June 17). Blue Whale - Description, Habitat, Image, Diet, and Interesting Facts. Retrieved September 27, 2020, from https://animals.net/blue-whale/