Sunday, March 9, 2008

whale facts

Humpback Whale

Average Length: (Adult) 35-50 ft (Newborn) 13-16 ft
Average Weight: (Adult) 23-30 tons (Birth) 1-2 tons
Population: 18,000-20,000 (2002 figure)
Lifespan: estimated to be around 40 years (1998 figure)
Threats: Caught in fishing nets, human disturbance, and being tangled in marine pollution
The flukes (tails) have a distinct pattern on the underside, much like our fingerprints
The humpback whale breaches more frequently than other baleen whales
The Pacific humpback's pectoral fins are white underneath & black on top..
The Atlantic humpback's pectoral fins are white on both sides- which makes it easier for us to see them
While in their breeding grounds- the whales do NOT eat!
Some humpbacks feed in the Southern Ocean and go north to their reproductive areas!
Can stay underwater for 30 minutes but often dives for much shorter periods of time, usually 5 to 10 minutes
Humpbacks emit high frequency "clicks" reaching 30,000 Hz
The males produce, in frequencies between 20 and 9,000 Hz, songs that are the longest and the most varied in all the animal kingdom, with repeated sequences about 15 minutes long
When they are in cold waters, the humpback whale eats 2 tons of fish and planktonic crustaceans a day, in 2 to 4 meals
Where to Look (Summer): Alaska, Cape Cod, Vancouver (B.C.), ...
Where to Look (Winter): Dominican Republic, Turks & Caicos Islands , Hawaii, Costa Rica, Tonga, ...

Orca Whale

Average Length: (Adult) 18-32 ft (Newborn) 7-8 ft
Average Weight: (Adult) 2.6-9 tons (Birth) 395 lbs
Nicknames: Killer whale, blackfish, grampus
Diet: "opportunistic"- the orca is one of the ocean's top predators (see below)
Range: All oceans of the world
Threats: Capture for public display, hunting, pollution
The largest member of the dolphin family
There is no known case of a wild orca ever killing a human
Orcas stay in long-term social groups, or pods, for life (group size: 3-25)
Orcas can be reliably seen on tours around Vancouver Island, off Antarctica, Norway, and Iceland, and occasionally in many other areas
Orcas can travel at up to 34 mph (55 km/h)
There are 2 'genetically' distinct forms of orcas, known as "transients" and "residents"
A versatile predator and has one of the most varied diets of all cetaceans. It is known to eat anything from squid, fish, and birds to sea turtles, seals, and dolphins; it will even tackle animals as large as Blue Whales!
Gestation period is thought to be 12-16 months, with most calves born between October and March
Where to Look: One of the most wide-ranging mammals on earth, though distribution is patchy. Seen more often in cooler waters than in the tropics and subtropics.

Gray Whale

Average Length: (Male) 43 ft (Female) 41 ft (Newborn) 15 ft
Average Weight: (Adult) 26 tons (Birth) 1,500 lbs
Nicknames: Mussel digger, hard head, devil fish, gray back
Group size: Generally 1-3; traveling groups can contain up to 16; hundreds can gather in good feeding conditions
Lifespan: between 30 and 40 years, but may even be up to 60 years
Gray whales are messy eaters
Only whale that is known to feed often in the sand and mud ("bottom feeder")... feeding on shellfish, crabs and worms
Each year, gray whales (only found in the North Pacific ocean) make the 12,400 mile round trip between Mexico and Alaska
The cruising speed during migration is about 1 to 3 miles per hour
Eastern Pacific gray whales, nearly extinct in the late nineteenth century, are now thought to number more than 20,000 (1998 figure)
Young gray whales are often 'friendly', coming to the side of boats and even lifting them out of the water
Pregnant females give birth to single calves just before or soon after arriving at the breeding lagoons; beginning in late December
Gestation period is about 13.5 months, with approximately 2 years between pregnancies
Where to Look: Found in Arctic feeding grounds April to November, and in Mexican breeding grounds December to April. Migrates south October to February, and north February to July.

Blue Whale

The largest living creature on Earth!
The record appears to be at least 110 feet long and a weight of 209 tons (It was a female)
Average Length: (Male) 82 ft (Female) 85 ft (Birth) 19 1/2 ft
Average Weight: (Adult) 100-120 tons (Newborn) 2.5-4 tons
Population: low thousands (2002 figure)
Diet: Krill and Fish
Range: All oceans of the world
Lifespan: More than 80 years
Threats: Loss of food, pollution
A blue whale drinks 50-150 gallons of milk a day, adding about 8 pounds of weight per hour, or 200 pounds a day
At about 8 months of age, when the calf is weened, it can measure close to 50 feet long and weigh about 50,000 pounds
At sea, blue whales usually feed alone or in pairs, often widely spaced
A blue whale's "blow" can reach as high as 30 feet!
During the feeding period, a blue whale can ingest 4 tons of krill a day. They feed at the beginning and the end of the night at a depth of at least 130 feet (40 m).
Pre-whaling population estimates were over 350,000 blue whales, but up to 99% of blue whales were killed during whaling efforts
Blue whales have no known predators (other than humans during the whaling years)
By the 1950s, blue whales were endangered

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