Blue Whales, Balaenoptera musculu, are one of few animals in the world that can truly be described as unique. These beautiful marine mammals grow up to 100 feet (30 meters) in length and can weigh in excess of 150 tons. They are the largest animals ever known to have lived on earth. And yet it is truly inspiring to see how graceful and beautiful these creatures are as they swim swiftly through almost all oceans on our planet.
Once numbering in the hundreds of thousands and living in all oceans, these amazing animals were hunted almost to extinction until the Convention on Fishing and Conservation of Living Resources on the High Seas was signed in 1966. At that time the number of Blue Whales was estimated to be around 1,000. Today the estimated population of Blue Whales is around 4,500 to 5,000, with the population growing at about 8% per year. The Blue Whale is an endangered species, but the growth rates over the last 10 to 15 years are encouraging and it demonstrates the value of coordinated conservation on a global basis.
The Blue Whale is very long and slender with various shades of bluish-grey on the top or dorsal side and somewhat lighter underneath. There are three known and distinct subspecies: B. m. brevicauda (also known as the pygmy blue whale) found in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean, B. m. musculus of the North Atlantic and North Pacific and B. m. intermedia of the Southern Ocean . B. m. indica, found in the Indian Ocean, may be another subspecies.
The diet of the blue whale is almost exclusively small crustaceans (krill). The blue whale may in fact consume up to 40 million or 3,600 kg of krill on a daily basis. It eats by expanding its throat plates and takes in enormous amounts of water which also contains krill and then pushes the water out through its baleen plates and swallows the krill.
The blue whale is found alone or in small groups in all oceans, but populations in the Southern Hemisphere are much larger. In the Northern Hemisphere, blue whales can be seen regularly in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and off the coasts of Monterey, California, and Baja California, Mexico. The blue whales migrate to the colder waters near the poles in the summer to feed and migrates back to equatorial regions to breed in the winter.
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