In this week’s addition of animal facts, we are going to take a look at the largest mammal that has ever lived on earth. That’s right – the blue whale! The blue whale is one of the most incredible and fascinating creatures. Of course, the size of this mammal alone is impressive. Did you know that their hearts can weigh as much as a car? Or that their tongues can weigh as much as an elephant? That’s a lot of weight, right? Well, the size and weight of a whale is just the beginning when it comes to interesting facts about this mammal, so let’s take a look at some more…
1. Eating habits
Despite being one of the largest mammals that have ever lived with us on earth, you may be surprised to learn that whales feed on some of the smallest marine life. Their favourite “snack” is krill, which is a tiny shrimp-like animal. However, as you may have guessed, they eat a lot of it! A single adult blue whale can eat around 36,000 kg of krill on a daily basis. Whales will typically catch their food by diving, descending to depths of around 500 metres.
2. Brink of extinction
Sadly, this mammal nearly went extinct in the 1900s. This was because of intensive hunting, with people killing whales for their oil. Devastatingly, hundreds of thousands of whales were killed. Luckily, though, blue whales were given protection by the 1966 International Whaling Commission. This doesn’t mean that the species is out of the woods, though. On the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List, blue whales are classified as endangered. It is believed that there are only around 10,000 – 25,000 blue whales swimming in our oceans.
3. Loud talkers
We may not be able to hear them, but did you know that blue whales are actually one of the loudest mammals on the planet? They communicate with each other through a series of low-frequency moans, groans, and pulses. It is believed that, when conditions are good, blue whales can hear each other across distances up to a massive 1,600 km.
One of the most amazing things about blue whales is that it is thought they feel emotions. If you take a look online, you will see some incredible stories about whales and their actions. In one of these stories, a humpback whale was saved by a diver, and afterwards, he showed his affection and thanks to the person. Because of this, it probably does not come as any surprise that blue whales are thought to form close attachments. They can swim alone, but you will often find them in pairs or small groups.
5. Baby blue whales
What about baby blue whales? Well, they are known as calves, and they emerge up to 8m in length and weighing as much as 2,700 kg. Their mothers help them to the surface of the water. And other female whales will help in nudging a baby blue whale to the water’s surface so they can take their first gulp of fresh air. The calf is suckled in water and will drink over 600 litres of milk every day. For the first year, the calf will gain roughly 90kg per day. Female whales only tend to have one young, and they will breed once every three years. Gestation tends to last between 11 and 12 months.
Despite the fact that the blue whale hunts underwater, it needs to come to the surface of the sea to breathe – as it is a mammal. When a blue whale gets to the surface of the water, it exhales air out of a blowhole as a cloud of pressurised vapour. This can rise vertically above the water for up to 9m! This is a great sight to behold. You can watch some YouTube videos of whales doing this to see what we’re talking about!
So there you have it: some fascinating and interesting facts about the biggest mammal that has ever lived on this planet. It is ever so sad to think that these beautiful creatures are still on the endangered list today, and we must do everything in our power to protect their existence.