35 Facts About the Blue Whale

Updated on January 4, 2020
cam8510 profile image

Science, nature and the environment, with regard to human impact, are subjects to which Chris applies his passions for research and writing.

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Evolutionary history has produced some amazingly large creatures, both on land and in the sea. Gravity has been the limiting factor for the size of land animals. Their size is determined by how much weight their skeletons can support. But gravity is not a factor for sea animals, so it is not surprising that the largest animals in history lived in the ocean.

I am including several videos of blue whales in this article because it makes them real when we can see them up close. Most of us will never see a living blue whale so I hope these videos help you to be sympathetic to their plight.

Tylosaurus

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Megalodon

Tylosaurus was a massive, fifty-foot meat-eater that ruled the seas covering North America during the Cretaceous period.

Megalodon swam atop the aquatic food chain during the Cenozoic period and reached up to 65 feet in length. This creature was the precursor to the modern great white shark that reaches 20 feet.

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The Blue Whale is the Largest Animal to Have Ever Existed on Earth

But the largest animal to ever inhabit Earth is still living today. The blue whale dwarfs all other creatures in history by reaching a length of ninety-eight feet (About 30 meters) and maxing out at 220 tons (200 metric tons). The skull of the earliest known modern blue whale was found in southern Italy. It is believed this whale lived about 1.5 million years ago. Scientists estimate the whale was about 80 feet (24.3 meters).

Size of a Blue Whale

Let’s have some fun visualizing the size of the blue whale which at birth is already one of the largest animals on earth weighing 3 tons (2.7 metric tonnes) and reaching 25 feet (7.6 meters).

  • The tongue of a blue whale is the size and weight of an elephant.

  • The blue whale’s heart is the size of a small car.

  • We could swim through the largest blood vessels of a blue whale.

Read on to discover more facts about the amazing blue whale, and please don’t miss the videos.

The Size of the Heart of a Blue Whale

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Feeding

Blue whales are one species of baleen whales. Baleen refers to 300 to 400 strands of keratin tissue (related to human hair, toenails, and fingernails) that hang down from the upper jaw.

  • The whale dives up to 500 meters taking in about 11,000 pounds (5,000 kg) of krill, plankton, and seawater. The whale then forces the water back out through the baleen filtration system. The krill and plankton remain in the whale’s mouth and are consumed.

  • In a single day, the blue whale eats about 9,000 pounds (4100 kg) of krill.

Drone Videography of Blue Whales

Range, Habitat, and Communities

  • Blue whales have been found in every ocean of the world.

  • They swim individually, in pairs, and in small groups.

  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates as many as 1,600 blue whales feed off the coast of central California in such places as the Gulf of the Farallones, Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries, Channel Islands, and Monterey Bay. They migrate to Mexico and Costa Rica in search of food.


One of the Greatest Blue Whale Colonies Ever Discovered

Speed

  • Blue whales cruise the sea-ways at about 5 miles per hour (8 kph)

  • They can burst to 20 mph (32 kph) when they are excited.

Scientific Name

  • Phylum: Chordata

  • Family: Balaenopteridae

  • Classification: Mammal

Lunge Feeding

Appearance

  • Blue whales are baleen whales, which means they have fringed plates of fingernail-like material, called baleen, attached to their upper jaws.

  • The blue whale has a broad, flat head and a long, tapered body that ends in wide, triangular flukes.

  • Balaenoptera musculus, the blue whale, is the largest animal ever known to have lived on the planet. At birth it is one of the world’s biggest animals!

  • Blue whales are blue-grey with areas of mottled grey. Cold water diatoms attach to the belly of the whale giving them a yellow tinge.

Blue Whales

Age

  • Lifespan in the wild-80-90 years
  • Blue whales develop waxlike earplugs that occur in layers over the years. Scientists have discovered that they can count the layers of these wax plugs to determine the approximate age of deceased whales.

  • Using this method, scientists have discovered a whale that they determined to be about 110 years.

General Information

  • In good conditions, blue whales can hear each other across distances of up to 1,000 miles (1,600km).

  • Blue whales may fall victim to attacks by sharks and killer whales.

  • Many blue whales are injured or die from impacts with large ships.

  • When the whale surfaces, it exhales air out of a blowhole in a cloud of pressurized vapor that rises about 30 feet (9 meters).

The History of Whale Hunting

  • Whale hunters have hunted whales for centuries for whale oil.

  • Whale hunting drove blue whales to the edge of extinction.

  • Between 1900 and 1966, approximately 360,000 blue whales were slaughtered.

  • In 1931, when whaling was at its zenith, 29,000 blue whales were killed.

The Sounds of the Blue Whale (6 minutes)

Protection and Current Status:

  • The 1966 International Whaling Commission granted Blue Whales protection

  • Blue whales are currently classified as endangered.

  • Japan has resumed commercial whaling while at the same time it has abandoned research whaling. The Japanese government claims that this will result in a net decline in the number of whales taken per year.

  • Seven of the thirteen great whale species are endangered or vulnerable.

While it is difficult to determine the exact number, scientists believe that there are at least 9,000 blue whales swimming in the oceans today. That may seem to be a small number, but there has been a slight rebound since 1966 when the count was down to about 3,000 whales.

May the blue whale live long with the rest of life on the planet.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Chris Mills

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      • Peggy W profile image

        Peggy Woods 

        23 minutes ago from Houston, Texas

        Thanks for assembling all of this information about the blue whale. Such interesting facts and figures! I would never have known that the age of these giant creatures was determined by the built-up ear wax plugs. Amazing! The videos really added to the enjoyment of reading this post. I hope that they continue to rebound in numbers.

      • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

        Chris Mills 

        13 days ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

        MG Singh, I enjoy writing these kinds of articles. There is so much information available. I like to pull it all together in one place for people to read. Thanks for visiting.

      • emge profile image

        MG Singh 

        2 weeks ago from Singapore

        Awesome article. I love whales and want all hunting of them stopped. Thanks for relating everything about whales.

      • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

        Chris Mills 

        2 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

        Shauna, Thanks for the idea. I just added a video about the sounds of the blue whale.

      • bravewarrior profile image

        Shauna L Bowling 

        2 weeks ago from Central Florida

        Chris, this is a fascinating article. The videos are amazing. Were you able to find a video that captured the blue whale's call?

        It's stunning to think that these whales are not only the largest animals on Earth, but have been around for thousands of years.

        Thanks for the education, Chris. I'd like to see more of these types of articles.

      • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

        Chris Mills 

        4 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

        Thanks, Genna. Yes, the lifespans of the whale and of the human are very close. It is sad that so many humans think that superior intelligence is a license to kill without constraint. We can't really be sure that our intelligence is superior. It may come down to the difference between a flipper and the opposable thumb.

      • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

        Chris Mills 

        5 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

        T-Rex was up to 20 feet and 15 tons. That is still several elephants, but a fraction the size of the blue whale.

      • Genna East profile image

        Genna East 

        5 weeks ago from Massachusetts, USA

        Stunning, mysterious, beautiful and majestic creatures. And their lifespan nearly equals that of humans. It is heartening to see their numbers increasing, although they have a long way to go to escape the endangered category. "May the blue whale live long with the rest of life on the planet." Absolutely. Excellent article, Chris.

      • manatita44 profile image

        manatita44 

        5 weeks ago from london

        Indeed, Bro. Indeed! How big was the tyronasaurus then? I thought the ancient animals were really huge!

      • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

        Chris Mills 

        5 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

        Manatita, the brontosaurus was 15 tonnes and 22 meters compared to 200 tonnes and 30 meters for the blue whale. They have made a modest rebound in the last fifty years. Let's hope it continues.

      • manatita44 profile image

        manatita44 

        5 weeks ago from london

        Massive, Bro and very informative info. I didn't know that they are larger than animals long extinct like Brontarsaurus etc. Yes, man will continue to hunt them, like elephants. Sad.

      • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

        Chris Mills 

        5 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

        Pamela, Yes, they are endangered, but their numbers are slowly on the rise. Just think how many there might be in the next 50 years.

      • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

        Chris Mills 

        5 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

        Ahh, Eric. You live in the perfect spot for seeing the blue whales and other species as well. I hope you and Gabe enjoy reading together.

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        5 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        I just get a text and a call. Goes out to several. "The whales are moving dad". Get your glasses (binoculars) and head up. And we just watch in splendor. Gabe and I will read this. If there is more a wonderful animal it has escaped me.

      • Pamela99 profile image

        Pamela Oglesby 

        5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

        I am sorry to hear these blue whales are still endangered. I really enjoyed your article and the great videos. Thrsr blue whales are magnificent.

      • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

        Chris Mills 

        5 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

        I agree, John. Very funny.

      • Jodah profile image

        John Hansen 

        5 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

        Haha, laughing at Ruby’s comment, “Who swallowed the whale?” Cough cough choke.

      • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

        Chris Mills 

        5 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

        John, thank you for sharing your thoughts about the article. I've always wanted to write something about whales. They are magnificent creatures. I've been on several whale watching tours and have kayaked with them swimming up beneath me. They are truly gentle giants.

      • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

        Chris Mills 

        5 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

        Ruby, thanks for sharing that very funny story about Jonah. I appreciate you stopping by today.

      • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

        Chris Mills 

        5 weeks ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin...for now

        Liz, I'm glad you found the article interesting. Thanks for reading.

      • Jodah profile image

        John Hansen 

        5 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

        This was a wonderful article. Blue whales have always amazed me, that such a huge creature can even exist and that it feeds on something as small as krill. The videos really added to this, Chris. Than you for sharing.

      • always exploring profile image

        Ruby Jean Richert 

        5 weeks ago from Southern Illinois

        I had no idea there were so few blue whales left. I watched three videos and was amazed at their size and ability to exhale spouts of water. I enjoyed reading and watching the whales. I have a funny story about Jonah and the whale. I was teaching summer bible class. I had about 10 teens, we were learning the books of the bible, they couldn't think of the book of Jonah, I said, " Come on, who swallowed the whale. They laughed so hard they were down on the grass. lol

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        5 weeks ago from UK

        This is a fascinating article. I really appreciate the way you have structured it, giving a lot of information in an interesting and easily digestible format.

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