Blue Whale

Blue Whale

Overview
The blue whale is a marine mammal
Marine mammal
Marine mammals, which include seals, whales, dolphins, and walruses, form a diverse group of 128 species that rely on the ocean for their existence. They do not represent a distinct biological grouping, but rather are unified by their reliance on the marine environment for feeding. The level of...

 belonging to the suborder of baleen whale
Baleen whale
The Baleen whales, also called whalebone whales or great whales, form the Mysticeti, one of two suborders of the Cetacea . Baleen whales are characterized by having baleen plates for filtering food from water, rather than having teeth. This distinguishes them from the other suborder of cetaceans,...

s (called Mysticeti). At 30 metres (98.4 ft) in length and 180 metric ton or more in weight, it is the largest known animal
Largest organisms
The largest organism found on Earth can be measured using a variety of methods. It could be defined as the largest by volume, mass, height or length. Some organisms group together to form a superorganism, though this cannot truly be classed as one large organism...

 to have ever existed.

Long and slender, the blue whale's body can be various shades of bluish-grey dorsally and somewhat lighter underneath. There are at least three distinct subspecies
Subspecies
Subspecies in biological classification, is either a taxonomic rank subordinate to species, ora taxonomic unit in that rank . A subspecies cannot be recognized in isolation: a species will either be recognized as having no subspecies at all or two or more, never just one...

: B. m. musculus of the North Atlantic and North Pacific, B.
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Encyclopedia
The blue whale is a marine mammal
Marine mammal
Marine mammals, which include seals, whales, dolphins, and walruses, form a diverse group of 128 species that rely on the ocean for their existence. They do not represent a distinct biological grouping, but rather are unified by their reliance on the marine environment for feeding. The level of...

 belonging to the suborder of baleen whale
Baleen whale
The Baleen whales, also called whalebone whales or great whales, form the Mysticeti, one of two suborders of the Cetacea . Baleen whales are characterized by having baleen plates for filtering food from water, rather than having teeth. This distinguishes them from the other suborder of cetaceans,...

s (called Mysticeti). At 30 metres (98.4 ft) in length and 180 metric ton or more in weight, it is the largest known animal
Largest organisms
The largest organism found on Earth can be measured using a variety of methods. It could be defined as the largest by volume, mass, height or length. Some organisms group together to form a superorganism, though this cannot truly be classed as one large organism...

 to have ever existed.

Long and slender, the blue whale's body can be various shades of bluish-grey dorsally and somewhat lighter underneath. There are at least three distinct subspecies
Subspecies
Subspecies in biological classification, is either a taxonomic rank subordinate to species, ora taxonomic unit in that rank . A subspecies cannot be recognized in isolation: a species will either be recognized as having no subspecies at all or two or more, never just one...

: B. m. musculus of the North Atlantic and North Pacific, B. m. intermedia of the Southern Ocean
Southern Ocean
The Southern Ocean comprises the southernmost waters of the World Ocean, generally taken to be south of 60°S latitude and encircling Antarctica. It is usually regarded as the fourth-largest of the five principal oceanic divisions...

 and B. m. brevicauda (also known as the pygmy blue whale
Pygmy Blue Whale
The pygmy blue whale is a subspecies of the blue whale found in the Indian Ocean and the southern Pacific Ocean....

) found in the Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

 and South Pacific Ocean. B. m. indica, found in the Indian Ocean, may be another subspecies. As with other baleen whales, its diet consists almost exclusively of small crustacean
Crustacean
Crustaceans form a very large group of arthropods, usually treated as a subphylum, which includes such familiar animals as crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimp, krill and barnacles. The 50,000 described species range in size from Stygotantulus stocki at , to the Japanese spider crab with a leg span...

s known as krill
Krill
Krill is the common name given to the order Euphausiacea of shrimp-like marine crustaceans. Also known as euphausiids, these small invertebrates are found in all oceans of the world...

.

Blue whales were abundant in nearly all the oceans on Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

 until the beginning of the twentieth century. For over a century, they were hunted almost to extinction
Extinction
In biology and ecology, extinction is the end of an organism or of a group of organisms , normally a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the last individual of the species, although the capacity to breed and recover may have been lost before this point...

 by whalers
Whaling
Whaling is the hunting of whales mainly for meat and oil. Its earliest forms date to at least 3000 BC. Various coastal communities have long histories of sustenance whaling and harvesting beached whales...

 until protected by the international community in 1966. A 2002 report estimated there were 5,000 to 12,000 blue whales worldwide, located in at least five groups. More recent research into the Pygmy subspecies suggests this may be an underestimate. Before whaling, the largest population was in the Antarctic, numbering approximately 239,000 (range 202,000 to 311,000). There remain only much smaller (around 2,000) concentrations in each of the North-East Pacific
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

, Antarctic, and Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

 groups. There are two more groups in the North Atlantic
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

, and at least two in the Southern Hemisphere
Southern Hemisphere
The Southern Hemisphere is the part of Earth that lies south of the equator. The word hemisphere literally means 'half ball' or "half sphere"...

.

Taxonomy



Blue whales are rorquals (family Balaenopteridae), a family that includes the humpback whale
Humpback Whale
The humpback whale is a species of baleen whale. One of the larger rorqual species, adults range in length from and weigh approximately . The humpback has a distinctive body shape, with unusually long pectoral fins and a knobbly head. It is an acrobatic animal, often breaching and slapping the...

, the fin whale
Fin Whale
The fin whale , also called the finback whale, razorback, or common rorqual, is a marine mammal belonging to the suborder of baleen whales. It is the second longest whale and the sixth largest living animal after the blue whale, bowhead whale, and right whales, growing to nearly 27 metres long...

, Bryde's whale
Bryde's Whale
Bryde's whales are baleen whales, one of the "great whales" or rorquals. They prefer tropical and temperate waters over the polar seas that other whales in their family frequent. They are largely coastal rather than pelagic. Bryde's whales are very similar in appearance to sei whales and almost as...

, the sei whale
Sei Whale
The sei whale , Balaenoptera borealis, is a baleen whale, the third-largest rorqual after the blue whale and the fin whale. It inhabits most oceans and adjoining seas, and prefers deep offshore waters. It avoids polar and tropical waters and semi-enclosed bodies of water...

 and the minke whale
Minke Whale
Minke whale , or lesser rorqual, is a name given to two species of marine mammal belonging to a clade within the suborder of baleen whales. The minke whale was given its official designation by Lacepède in 1804, who described a dwarf form of Balænoptera acuto-rostrata...

. The family Balaenopteridae is believed to have diverged from the other families of the suborder Mysticeti as long ago as the middle Oligocene
Oligocene
The Oligocene is a geologic epoch of the Paleogene Period and extends from about 34 million to 23 million years before the present . As with other older geologic periods, the rock beds that define the period are well identified but the exact dates of the start and end of the period are slightly...

. However, it is not known when the members of those families diverged from each other.

The blue whale is usually classified as one of eight species in the genus Balaenoptera; one authority places it in a separate monotypic genus, Sibbaldus, but this is not accepted elsewhere. DNA
DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

 sequencing analysis indicates that the blue whale is phylogenetically
Phylogenetics
In biology, phylogenetics is the study of evolutionary relatedness among groups of organisms , which is discovered through molecular sequencing data and morphological data matrices...

 closer to the sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis) and Bryde's whale (Balaenoptera brydei) than to other Balaenoptera species, and closer to the humpback whale (Megaptera) and the gray whale
Gray Whale
The gray whale, Eschrichtius robustus, is a baleen whale that migrates between feeding and breeding grounds yearly. It reaches a length of about , a weight of , and lives 50–70 years. The common name of the whale comes from the gray patches and white mottling on its dark skin. Gray whales were...

 (Eschrichtius) than to the minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata and Balaenoptera bonaerensis). If further research confirms these relationships, it will be necessary to reclassify the rorquals.

There have been at least 11 documented cases of blue/fin
Fin Whale
The fin whale , also called the finback whale, razorback, or common rorqual, is a marine mammal belonging to the suborder of baleen whales. It is the second longest whale and the sixth largest living animal after the blue whale, bowhead whale, and right whales, growing to nearly 27 metres long...

 hybrid adults in the wild. Arnason and Gullberg describe the genetic distance between a blue and a fin as about the same as that between a human and a gorilla. Researchers working off of Fiji believe they photographed a hybrid humpback
Humpback Whale
The humpback whale is a species of baleen whale. One of the larger rorqual species, adults range in length from and weigh approximately . The humpback has a distinctive body shape, with unusually long pectoral fins and a knobbly head. It is an acrobatic animal, often breaching and slapping the...

/blue whale.

The first published description of the blue whale comes from Robert Sibbald
Robert Sibbald
Sir Robert Sibbald was a Scottish physician and antiquary.-Life:He was born in Edinburgh, the son of David Sibbald and Margaret Boyd...

's Phalainologia Nova (1694). In September 1692, Sibbald found a blue whale that had stranded in the Firth of Forth
Firth of Forth
The Firth of Forth is the estuary or firth of Scotland's River Forth, where it flows into the North Sea, between Fife to the north, and West Lothian, the City of Edinburgh and East Lothian to the south...

—a male 78-feet-long—which had "black, horny plates" and "two large apertures approaching a pyramid in shape".

The specific name musculus is Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 and could mean "muscle", but it can also be interpreted as "little mouse". Carl Linnaeus, who named the species in his seminal Systema Naturae
Systema Naturae
The book was one of the major works of the Swedish botanist, zoologist and physician Carolus Linnaeus. The first edition was published in 1735...

of 1758, would have known this and may have intended the ironic double meaning
Double entendre
A double entendre or adianoeta is a figure of speech in which a spoken phrase is devised to be understood in either of two ways. Often the first meaning is straightforward, while the second meaning is less so: often risqué or ironic....

. Herman Melville
Herman Melville
Herman Melville was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet. He is best known for his novel Moby-Dick and the posthumous novella Billy Budd....

 called this species sulphur-bottom in his novel Moby-Dick
Cetology of Moby-Dick
The cetology of Moby-Dick is the zoological classification and study of the properties of whales introduced by United States author Herman Melville in his 1851 novel Moby-Dick. Although the novel is a work of fiction, Melville included sequences of chapters concerned largely with an objective...

due to an orange-brown or yellow tinge on the underparts from diatom
Diatom
Diatoms are a major group of algae, and are one of the most common types of phytoplankton. Most diatoms are unicellular, although they can exist as colonies in the shape of filaments or ribbons , fans , zigzags , or stellate colonies . Diatoms are producers within the food chain...

 films on the skin. Other common names for the blue whale have included Sibbald's rorqual (after Sibbald, who first described the species), the great blue whale and the great northern rorqual. These names have now fallen into disuse. The first known usage of the term blue whale was in Melville's Moby-Dick, which only mentions it in passing and does not specifically attribute it to the species in question. The name was really derived from the Norwegian blåhval, coined by Svend Foyn
Svend Foyn
Svend Foyn was a Norwegian whaling and shipping magnate who pioneered revolutionary methods for hunting and processing whales. Svend Foyn introduced the modern harpoon gun and brought whaling into a modern age....

 shortly after he had perfected the harpoon gun; the Norwegian scientist G. O. Sars adopted it as the Norwegian common name in 1874.

Authorities classify the species into three or four subspecies: B. m. musculus, the northern blue whale consisting of the North Atlantic and North Pacific populations, B. m. intermedia, the southern blue whale of the Southern Ocean
Southern Ocean
The Southern Ocean comprises the southernmost waters of the World Ocean, generally taken to be south of 60°S latitude and encircling Antarctica. It is usually regarded as the fourth-largest of the five principal oceanic divisions...

, B. m. brevicauda, the pygmy blue whale
Pygmy Blue Whale
The pygmy blue whale is a subspecies of the blue whale found in the Indian Ocean and the southern Pacific Ocean....

 found in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific, and the more problematic B. m. indica, the great Indian rorqual, which is also found in the Indian Ocean and, although described earlier, may be the same subspecies as B. m. brevicauda.

Description and behaviour




The blue whale has a long tapering body that appears stretched in comparison with the stockier build of other whales. The head is flat, U-shaped and has a prominent ridge running from the blowhole
Blowhole (biology)
In biology, a blowhole is the hole at the top of a cetacean's head through which the animal breathes air. It is homologous with the nostril of other mammals. As whales reach the water surface to breathe, they will forcefully expel air through the blowhole. Not only is air expelled, but mucus and...

 to the top of the upper lip. The front part of the mouth is thick with baleen
Baleen
Baleen or whalebone is a filter-feeder system inside the mouths of baleen whales. The baleen system works when a whale opens its mouth underwater and then water pours into the whale's mouth. The whale then pushes the water out, and animals such as krill are filtered by the baleen and remain as food...

 plates; around 300 plates (each around one metre (3.2 ft) long) hang from the upper jaw, running 0.5 m (1.6 ft) back into the mouth. Between 60 and 90 grooves (called ventral pleats) run along the throat parallel to the body length. These pleats assist with evacuating water from the mouth after lunge feeding (see feeding below).

The dorsal fin
Dorsal fin
A dorsal fin is a fin located on the backs of various unrelated marine and freshwater vertebrates, including most fishes, marine mammals , and the ichthyosaurs...

 is small, visible only briefly during the dive sequence. Located around three-quarters of the way along the length of the body, it varies in shape from one individual to another; some only have a barely perceptible lump, but others may have prominent and falcate (sickle-shaped) dorsals. When surfacing to breathe, the blue whale raises its shoulder and blowhole out of the water to a greater extent than other large whales, such as the fin or sei whales. Observers can use this trait to differentiate between species at sea. Some blue whales in the North Atlantic and North Pacific raise their tail fluke when diving. When breathing, the whale emits a spectacular vertical single-column spout up to 12 metres (39.4 ft), typically 9 metres (29.5 ft). Its lung
Lung
The lung is the essential respiration organ in many air-breathing animals, including most tetrapods, a few fish and a few snails. In mammals and the more complex life forms, the two lungs are located near the backbone on either side of the heart...

 capacity is 5,000 litres (1320 U.S. gallons). Blue whales have twin blowholes shielded by a large splashguard.

The flippers are 3–4 m (9.8–13.1 ft) long. The upper sides are grey with a thin white border; the lower sides are white. The head and tail fluke are generally uniformly grey. The whale's upper parts, and sometimes the flippers, are usually mottled. The degree of mottling varies substantially from individual to individual. Some may have a uniform slate-grey color, but others demonstrate a considerable variation of dark blues, greys and blacks, all tightly mottled.

Blue whales can reach speeds of 50 kilometres per hour (31.1 mph) over short bursts, usually when interacting with other whales, but 20 kilometres per hour (12.4 mph) is a more typical traveling speed. When feeding, they slow down to 5 kilometres per hour (3.1 mph).

Blue whales most commonly live alone or with one other individual. It is not known how long traveling pairs stay together. In locations where there is a high concentration of food, as many as 50 blue whales have been seen scattered over a small area. However, they do not form the large, close-knit groups seen in other baleen species.


Size




Blue whales are difficult to weigh because of their size. Most blue whales killed by whalers were not weighed whole, but cut up into manageable pieces first. This caused an underestimate of the total weight of the whale, due to the loss of blood and other fluids. Nevertheless, measurements between 150 metric ton were recorded of animals up to 27 metres (88.6 ft) in length. The weight of an individual 30 metres (98.4 ft) long is believed by the American National Marine Mammal Laboratory
National Marine Mammal Laboratory
The National Marine Mammal Laboratory is a United States research laboratory that undertakes research into marine mammals under the direction of the National Marine Fisheries Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration....

 (NMML) to be in excess of 180 metric ton. The largest blue whale accurately weighed by NMML scientists to date was a female that weighed 177 metric ton. The heaviest whale ever recorded weighed in at 190 metric tons (209.4 ST) while the longest whale ever recorded was 33.3 metres (109.3 ft).

The blue whale is the largest animal ever known to have lived. The largest known dinosaur
Dinosaur
Dinosaurs are a diverse group of animals of the clade and superorder Dinosauria. They were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates for over 160 million years, from the late Triassic period until the end of the Cretaceous , when the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event led to the extinction of...

 of the Mesozoic
Mesozoic
The Mesozoic era is an interval of geological time from about 250 million years ago to about 65 million years ago. It is often referred to as the age of reptiles because reptiles, namely dinosaurs, were the dominant terrestrial and marine vertebrates of the time...

 Era was the Argentinosaurus
Argentinosaurus
Argentinosaurus is a genus of titanosaur sauropod dinosaur first discovered by Guillermo Heredia in Argentina. The generic name refers to the country in which it was discovered...

, which is estimated to have weighed up to 90 metric ton, though a controversial vertebra of Amphicoelias
Amphicoelias
Amphicoelias is a genus of herbivorous sauropod dinosaur that includes what may be the largest dinosaur ever discovered, A. fragillimus. Based on surviving descriptions of a single fossil bone, A. fragillimus may have been the longest known vertebrate at in length, and may have had a mass of up...

 fragillimus
may indicate an animal of up to 122 metric ton and 40–60 m (131.2–196.9 ft). Furthermore, there are weight estimates for the very poorly known Bruhathkayosaurus
Bruhathkayosaurus
Bruhathkayosaurus might have been the largest dinosaur that ever lived. The accuracy of this claim, however, has been mired in controversy and debate...

ranging from 140 metric ton, besides length estimates up to about 45 metres (147.6 ft). The extinct fish Leedsichthys
Leedsichthys
Leedsichthys was a giant pachycormid that lived in the oceans of the Middle Jurassic period. The closest living relative of the pachycormids is the bowfin, Amia calva, but this is only very distantly related....

may have approached its size. However, complete fossils are difficult to come by, making size comparisons difficult. All these animals are considered to be smaller than the blue whale.

There is some uncertainty about the biggest blue whale ever found, as most data come from blue whales killed in Antarctic waters during the first half of the twentieth century, and was collected by whalers not well-versed in standard zoological measurement techniques. The longest whales ever recorded were two females measuring 33.6 metres (110.2 ft) and 33.3 metres (109.3 ft). The longest whale measured by scientist
Scientist
A scientist in a broad sense is one engaging in a systematic activity to acquire knowledge. In a more restricted sense, a scientist is an individual who uses the scientific method. The person may be an expert in one or more areas of science. This article focuses on the more restricted use of the word...

s at the NMML was 29.9 metres (98.1 ft).

A blue whale's tongue
Tongue
The tongue is a muscular hydrostat on the floors of the mouths of most vertebrates which manipulates food for mastication. It is the primary organ of taste , as much of the upper surface of the tongue is covered in papillae and taste buds. It is sensitive and kept moist by saliva, and is richly...

 weighs around 2.7 metric ton and, when fully expanded, its mouth is large enough to hold up to 90 metric ton of food and water. Despite the size of its mouth, the dimensions of its throat are such that a blue whale cannot swallow an object wider than a beach ball. Its heart
Heart
The heart is a myogenic muscular organ found in all animals with a circulatory system , that is responsible for pumping blood throughout the blood vessels by repeated, rhythmic contractions...

 weighs 600 kilograms (1,322.8 lb) and is the largest
Largest body part
The largest body part is either the largest given body part across all living and extinct organisms or the largest example of a body part within an existing species. The largest animals on the planet are not the only ones to have large body parts, with some smaller animals actually having one...

 known in any animal. A blue whale's aorta
Aorta
The aorta is the largest artery in the body, originating from the left ventricle of the heart and extending down to the abdomen, where it branches off into two smaller arteries...

 is about 23 centimetres (9.1 in) in diameter. During the first seven months of its life, a blue whale calf drinks approximately 400 litres (100 U.S. gallons) of milk every day. Blue whale calves gain weight
Body weight
The term body weight is used in daily English speech as well as in the contexts of biological and medical sciences to describe the mass of an organism's body. Body weight is measured in kilograms throughout the world, although in some countries it is still measured in pounds or stones and pounds...

 quickly, as much as 90 kilograms (198.4 lb) every 24 hours. Even at birth, they weigh up to 2700 kilograms (5,952.5 lb)—the same as a fully grown hippopotamus
Hippopotamus
The hippopotamus , or hippo, from the ancient Greek for "river horse" , is a large, mostly herbivorous mammal in sub-Saharan Africa, and one of only two extant species in the family Hippopotamidae After the elephant and rhinoceros, the hippopotamus is the third largest land mammal and the heaviest...

.

Feeding


Blue whales feed almost exclusively on krill
Krill
Krill is the common name given to the order Euphausiacea of shrimp-like marine crustaceans. Also known as euphausiids, these small invertebrates are found in all oceans of the world...

, though they also take small numbers of copepods. The species of this zooplankton
Zooplankton
Zooplankton are heterotrophic plankton. Plankton are organisms drifting in oceans, seas, and bodies of fresh water. The word "zooplankton" is derived from the Greek zoon , meaning "animal", and , meaning "wanderer" or "drifter"...

 eaten by blue whales varies from ocean to ocean. In the North Atlantic, Meganyctiphanes norvegica, Thysanoessa raschii
Thysanoessa raschii
Thysanoessa raschii, sometimes known as Arctic krill, is one of the most common euphausiid species of the subarctic and Arctic seas. They may reach long, and are sexually mature above ....

, Thysanoessa inermis and Thysanoessa longicaudata are the usual food; in the North Pacific, Euphausia pacifica, Thysanoessa inermis, Thysanoessa longipes, Thysanoessa spinifera, Nyctiphanes symplex and Nematoscelis megalops; and in the Antarctic, Euphausia superba, Euphausia crystallorophias
Euphausia crystallorophias
Euphausia crystallorophias is a species of krill, sometimes called ice krill, crystal krill, or Antarctic coastal krill. It lives in the coastal waters around Antarctica, further south than any other species of krill...

and Euphausia valentin.

An adult blue whale can eat up to 40 million krill in a day. The whales always feed in the areas with the highest concentration of krill, sometimes eating up to 3600 kilograms (7,936.6 lb) of krill in a single day. This daily requirement of an adult blue whale is in the region of 1.5 million kilocalories.

Because krill move, blue whales typically feed at depths of more than 100 metres (328.1 ft) during the day and only surface-feed at night. Dive times are typically 10 minutes when feeding, though dives of up to 20 minutes are common. The longest recorded dive is 36 minutes. The whale feeds by lunging forward at groups of krill, taking the animals and a large quantity of water into its mouth. The water is then squeezed out through the baleen plates by pressure from the ventral pouch and tongue. Once the mouth is clear of water, the remaining krill, unable to pass through the plates, are swallowed. The blue whale also incidentally consumes small fish, crustaceans and squid caught up with krill.

Life history



Mating starts in late autumn and continues to the end of winter. Little is known about mating behaviour or breeding grounds. Females typically give birth once every two to three years at the start of the winter after a gestation period
Gestation period
For mammals the gestation period is the time in which a fetus develops, beginning with fertilization and ending at birth. The duration of this period varies between species.-Duration:...

 of 10 to 12 months. The calf weighs about 2.5 metric ton and is around 7 metres (23 ft) in length. Blue whale calves drink 380–570 litres (100–150 U.S. gallons) of milk a day. Weaning
Weaning
Weaning is the process of gradually introducing a mammal infant, either human or animal, to what will be its adult diet and withdrawing the supply of its mother's milk.The process takes place only in mammals, as only mammals produce milk...

 takes place for about six months, by which time the calf has doubled in length. Sexual maturity is typically reached at eight to ten years, by which time males are at least 20 metres (65.6 ft) long (or more in the Southern Hemisphere). Females are larger still, reaching sexual maturity at around the age of five, by which they are about 21 metres (68.9 ft) long.

Scientists estimate that blue whales can live for at least 80 years; however, since individual records do not date back into the whaling era, this will not be known with certainty for many years. The longest recorded study of a single individual is 34 years, in the northeast Pacific. The whales' only natural predator is the orca
Orca
The killer whale , commonly referred to as the orca, and less commonly as the blackfish, is a toothed whale belonging to the oceanic dolphin family. Killer whales are found in all oceans, from the frigid Arctic and Antarctic regions to tropical seas...

. Studies report that as many as 25% of mature blue whales have scars resulting from orca attacks. The mortality rate of such attacks is unknown.

Blue whale strandings are extremely uncommon, and, because of the species' social structure, mass strandings are unheard of. However, when strandings do occur, they can become the focus of public interest. In 1920, a blue whale washed up near Bragar
Bragar
Bragar is a village on the west side of the Isle of Lewis in Scotland, 14 miles from the island's only town, Stornoway.Residents are mainly Gaelic speaking, and many work as crofters....

 on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides
Outer Hebrides
The Outer Hebrides also known as the Western Isles and the Long Island, is an island chain off the west coast of Scotland. The islands are geographically contiguous with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, one of the 32 unitary council areas of Scotland...

 of Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

. It had been shot by whalers, but the harpoon had failed to explode. As with other mammals, the fundamental instinct of the whale was to try to carry on breathing at all costs, even though this meant beaching to prevent itself from drowning. Two of the whale's bones were erected just off a main road on Lewis and remain a tourist attraction.

Vocalizations


Multimedia relating to the blue whale

Estimates made by Cummings and Thompson (1971) suggest the source level of sounds made by blue whales are between 155 and 188 decibel
Decibel
The decibel is a logarithmic unit that indicates the ratio of a physical quantity relative to a specified or implied reference level. A ratio in decibels is ten times the logarithm to base 10 of the ratio of two power quantities...

s when measured relative to a reference pressure of one micropascal at one metre. All blue whale groups make calls at a fundamental frequency
Fundamental frequency
The fundamental frequency, often referred to simply as the fundamental and abbreviated f0, is defined as the lowest frequency of a periodic waveform. In terms of a superposition of sinusoids The fundamental frequency, often referred to simply as the fundamental and abbreviated f0, is defined as the...

 between 10 and 40 Hz
Hertz
The hertz is the SI unit of frequency defined as the number of cycles per second of a periodic phenomenon. One of its most common uses is the description of the sine wave, particularly those used in radio and audio applications....

; the lowest frequency sound a human can typically perceive is 20 Hz. Blue whale calls last between ten and thirty seconds. Blue whales off the coast of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

 have been repeatedly recorded making "songs" of four notes, lasting about two minutes each, reminiscent of the well-known humpback whale songs. As this phenomenon has not been seen in any other populations, researchers believe it may be unique to the B. m. brevicauda (pygmy) subspecies.

The reason for vocalization is unknown. Richardson et al. (1995) discuss six possible reasons:
  1. Maintenance of inter-individual distance
  2. Species and individual recognition
  3. Contextual information transmission (for example feeding, alarm, courtship)
  4. Maintenance of social organization (for example contact calls between females and males)
  5. Location of topographic features
  6. Location of prey resources

Hunting era




Blue whales are not easy to catch or kill. Their speed and power meant that they were rarely pursued by early whalers, who instead targeted sperm
Sperm Whale
The sperm whale, Physeter macrocephalus, is a marine mammal species, order Cetacea, a toothed whale having the largest brain of any animal. The name comes from the milky-white waxy substance, spermaceti, found in the animal's head. The sperm whale is the only living member of genus Physeter...

 and right whale
Right whale
Right whales are three species of large baleen whales consisting of two genera in the family Balaenidae of order Cetacea. Their bodies are very dark gray or black and rotund....

s. In 1864, the Norwegian Svend Foyn
Svend Foyn
Svend Foyn was a Norwegian whaling and shipping magnate who pioneered revolutionary methods for hunting and processing whales. Svend Foyn introduced the modern harpoon gun and brought whaling into a modern age....

 equipped a steamboat
Steamboat
A steamboat or steamship, sometimes called a steamer, is a ship in which the primary method of propulsion is steam power, typically driving propellers or paddlewheels...

 with harpoon
Harpoon
A harpoon is a long spear-like instrument used in fishing to catch fish or large marine mammals such as whales. It accomplishes this task by impaling the target animal, allowing the fishermen to use a rope or chain attached to the butt of the projectile to catch the animal...

s specifically designed for catching large whales. Although initially cumbersome and with a low success rate, Foyn perfected the harpoon gun, and soon several whaling stations were established on the coast of Finnmark
Finnmark
or Finnmárku is a county in the extreme northeast of Norway. By land it borders Troms county to the west, Finland to the south and Russia to the east, and by water, the Norwegian Sea to the northwest, and the Barents Sea to the north and northeast.The county was formerly known as Finmarkens...

 in northern Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

. Because of disputes with the local fishermen, the last whaling station in Finnmark was closed down in 1904.

Soon, blue whales were being hunted in Iceland
Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

 (1883), the Faroe Islands
Faroe Islands
The Faroe Islands are an island group situated between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, approximately halfway between Scotland and Iceland. The Faroe Islands are a self-governing territory within the Kingdom of Denmark, along with Denmark proper and Greenland...

 (1894), Newfoundland (1898), and Spitsbergen
Spitsbergen
Spitsbergen is the largest and only permanently populated island of the Svalbard archipelago in Norway. Constituting the western-most bulk of the archipelago, it borders the Arctic Ocean, the Norwegian Sea and the Greenland Sea...

 (1903). In 1904-05 the first blue whales were taken off South Georgia. By 1925, with the advent of the stern slipway in factory ships and the use of steam-driven whale catchers, the catch of blue whales, and baleen whales as a whole, in the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic began to increase dramatically. In the 1930–31 season, these ships caught 29,400 blue whales in the Antarctic alone. By the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, populations had been significantly depleted, and, in 1946, the first quotas restricting international trade in whales were introduced, but they were ineffective because of the lack of differentiation between species. Rare species could be hunted on an equal footing with those found in relative abundance.

Arthur C. Clarke
Arthur C. Clarke
Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, CBE, FRAS was a British science fiction author, inventor, and futurist, famous for his short stories and novels, among them 2001: A Space Odyssey, and as a host and commentator in the British television series Mysterious World. For many years, Robert A. Heinlein,...

, in his 1962 book Profiles of the Future, was the first prominent intellectual
Intellectual
An intellectual is a person who uses intelligence and critical or analytical reasoning in either a professional or a personal capacity.- Terminology and endeavours :"Intellectual" can denote four types of persons:...

 to call attention to the plight of the blue whale. He mentioned its large brain and said, "we do not know the true nature of the entity we are destroying."

Blue whale hunting was banned in 1966 by the International Whaling Commission
International Whaling Commission
The International Whaling Commission is an international body set up by the terms of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling , which was signed in Washington, D.C...

, and illegal whaling by the USSR finally halted in the 1970s, by which time 330,000 blue whales had been caught in the Antarctic, 33,000 in the rest of the Southern Hemisphere, 8,200 in the North Pacific, and 7,000 in the North Atlantic. The largest original population, in the Antarctic, had been reduced to 0.15% of their initial numbers.

Population and distribution today



Since the introduction of the whaling ban, studies have failed to ascertain whether the conservation reliant
Conservation reliant species
Conservation reliant species are endangered or threatened animal or plant species that require continuing species specific wildlife management intervention such as predator control, habitat management and parasite control to survive even when self-sustaining population recovery goals are...

 global blue whale population is increasing or remaining stable. In the Antarctic, best estimates show a significant increase at 7.3% per year since the end of illegal Soviet whaling, but numbers remain at under 1% of their original levels. It has also been suggested that Icelandic and Californian populations are increasing but these increases are not statistically significant. The total world population was estimated to be between 5,000 and 12,000 in 2002, although there are high levels of uncertainty in available estimates for many areas.

The IUCN Red List
IUCN Red List
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species , founded in 1963, is the world's most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of biological species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature is the world's main authority on the conservation status of species...

 counts the blue whale as "endangered" as it has since the list's inception. In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, the National Marine Fisheries Service
National Marine Fisheries Service
The National Marine Fisheries Service is a United States federal agency. A division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Commerce, NMFS is responsible for the stewardship and management of the nation's living marine resources and their habitat within the...

 lists them as endangered under the Endangered Species Act
Endangered Species Act
The Endangered Species Act of 1973 is one of the dozens of United States environmental laws passed in the 1970s. Signed into law by President Richard Nixon on December 28, 1973, it was designed to protect critically imperiled species from extinction as a "consequence of economic growth and...

. The largest known concentration, consisting of about 2,800 individuals, is the northeast Pacific population of the northern blue whale (B. m. musculus) subspecies that ranges from Alaska
Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

 to Costa Rica
Costa Rica
Costa Rica , officially the Republic of Costa Rica is a multilingual, multiethnic and multicultural country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east....

, but is most commonly seen from California in summer. Infrequently, this population visits the northwest Pacific between Kamchatka
Kamchatka Peninsula
The Kamchatka Peninsula is a peninsula in the Russian Far East, with an area of . It lies between the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Sea of Okhotsk to the west...

 and the northern tip of Japan.

In the North Atlantic, two stocks of B. m. musculus are recognised. The first is found off Greenland
Greenland
Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe for...

, Newfoundland
Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador is the easternmost province of Canada. Situated in the country's Atlantic region, it incorporates the island of Newfoundland and mainland Labrador with a combined area of . As of April 2011, the province's estimated population is 508,400...

, Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the most populous province in Atlantic Canada. The name of the province is Latin for "New Scotland," but "Nova Scotia" is the recognized, English-language name of the province. The provincial capital is Halifax. Nova Scotia is the...

 and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence
Gulf of Saint Lawrence
The Gulf of Saint Lawrence , the world's largest estuary, is the outlet of North America's Great Lakes via the Saint Lawrence River into the Atlantic Ocean...

. This group is estimated to total about 500. The second, more easterly group is spotted from the Azores
Azores
The Archipelago of the Azores is composed of nine volcanic islands situated in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, and is located about west from Lisbon and about east from the east coast of North America. The islands, and their economic exclusion zone, form the Autonomous Region of the...

 in spring to Iceland in July and August; it is presumed the whales follow the Mid-Atlantic Ridge
Mid-Atlantic Ridge
The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is a mid-ocean ridge, a divergent tectonic plate boundary located along the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, and part of the longest mountain range in the world. It separates the Eurasian Plate and North American Plate in the North Atlantic, and the African Plate from the South...

 between the two volcanic islands. Beyond Iceland, blue whales have been spotted as far north as Spitsbergen
Spitsbergen
Spitsbergen is the largest and only permanently populated island of the Svalbard archipelago in Norway. Constituting the western-most bulk of the archipelago, it borders the Arctic Ocean, the Norwegian Sea and the Greenland Sea...

 and Jan Mayen
Jan Mayen
Jan Mayen Island is a volcanic island in the Arctic Ocean and part of the Kingdom of Norway. It is long and 373 km2 in area, partly covered by glaciers . It has two parts: larger northeast Nord-Jan and smaller Sør-Jan, linked by an isthmus wide...

, though such sightings are rare. Scientists do not know where these whales spend their winters. The total North Atlantic population is estimated to be between 600 and 1,500.

In the Southern Hemisphere, there appear to be two distinct subspecies, B. m. intermedia, the Antarctic blue whale, and the little-studied pygmy blue whale, B. m. brevicauda, found in Indian Ocean waters. The most recent surveys (midpoint 1998) provided an estimate of 2,280 blue whales in the Antarctic., of which fewer than 1% are likely to be pygmy blue whales Estimates from a 1996 survey were that 424 pygmy blue whales were in a small area south of Madagascar
Madagascar
The Republic of Madagascar is an island country located in the Indian Ocean off the southeastern coast of Africa...

 alone, thus it is likely that numbers in the entire Indian Ocean are in the thousands. If this is true, the global numbers would be much higher than estimates predict.

A fourth subspecies, B. m. indica, was identified by Blyth
Edward Blyth
Edward Blyth was an English zoologist and pharmacist. He was one of the founders of zoology in India....

 in 1859 in the northern Indian Ocean, but difficulties in identifying distinguishing features for this subspecies led to it being used a synonym for B. m. brevicauda, the pygmy blue whale. Records for Soviet catches seem to indicate that the female adult size is closer to that of the Pygmy Blue than B. m. musculus, although the populations of B. m. indica and B. m. brevicauda appear to be discrete, and the breeding seasons differ by almost six months.

Migratory patterns of these subspecies are not well known. For example, pygmy blue whales have been recorded in the northern Indian Ocean (Oman
Oman
Oman , officially called the Sultanate of Oman , is an Arab state in southwest Asia on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by the United Arab Emirates to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west, and Yemen to the southwest. The coast is formed by the Arabian Sea on the...

, Maldives
Maldives
The Maldives , , officially Republic of Maldives , also referred to as the Maldive Islands, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean formed by a double chain of twenty-six atolls oriented north-south off India's Lakshadweep islands, between Minicoy Island and...

 and Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

), where they may form a distinct resident population. In addition, the population of blue whales occurring off Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

 and Peru
Peru
Peru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....

 may also be a distinct population. Some Antarctic blue whales approach the eastern South Atlantic coast in winter, and occasionally, their vocalizations are heard off Peru, Western Australia, and in the northern Indian Ocean. In Chile, the Cetacean Conservation Center
Cetacean Conservation Center
The Cetacean Conservation Center is a Chilean NGO dedicated to the conservation of cetaceans and other marine mammals that inhabit the coastal waters of Chile...

, with support from the Chilean Navy
Chilean Navy
-Independence Wars of Chile and Peru :The Chilean Navy dates back to 1817. A year before, following the Battle of Chacabuco, General Bernardo O'Higgins prophetically declared "this victory and another hundred shall be of no significance if we do not gain control of the sea".This led to the...

, is undertaking extensive research and conservation work on a recently discovered feeding aggregation of the species off the coast of Chiloe Island
Chiloé Island
Chiloé Island , also known as Greater Island of Chiloé , is the largest island of the Chiloé Archipelago off the coast of Chile, in the Pacific Ocean...

 in the Gulf of Corcovado
Gulf of Corcovado
Gulf of Corcovado is a large body of water separating the Chiloé Island from the mainland of Chile. Geologically it is a foreland basin that has been carved out by Quaternary glaciers. A large population of blue whales is found there, and it is under threat from salmon farming....

, where 326 blue whales were spotted in the summer of 2007.

Efforts to calculate the blue whale population more accurately are supported by marine mammologists at Duke University
Duke University
Duke University is a private research university located in Durham, North Carolina, United States. Founded by Methodists and Quakers in the present day town of Trinity in 1838, the school moved to Durham in 1892. In 1924, tobacco industrialist James B...

, who maintain the Ocean Biogeographic Information System—Spatial Ecological Analysis of Megavertebrate Populations (OBIS-SEAMAP), a collation of marine mammal sighting data from around 130 sources.

Threats other than hunting



Due to their enormous size, power and speed, adult blue whales have virtually no natural predators. There is, however, one documented case in National Geographic Magazine
National Geographic Magazine
National Geographic, formerly the National Geographic Magazine, is the official journal of the National Geographic Society. It published its first issue in 1888, just nine months after the Society itself was founded...

of a blue whale being attacked by orca
Orca
The killer whale , commonly referred to as the orca, and less commonly as the blackfish, is a toothed whale belonging to the oceanic dolphin family. Killer whales are found in all oceans, from the frigid Arctic and Antarctic regions to tropical seas...

s off the Baja California Peninsula
Baja California Peninsula
The Baja California peninsula , is a peninsula in northwestern Mexico. Its land mass separates the Pacific Ocean from the Gulf of California. The Peninsula extends from Mexicali, Baja California in the north to Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur in the south.The total area of the Baja California...

; although the orcas were unable to kill the animal outright during their attack, the blue whale sustained massive wounds and probably died as a result of them shortly after the attack. Up to a quarter of the blue whales identified in Baja bear scars from orca attacks.

Blue whales may be wounded, sometimes fatally, after colliding with ocean vessels, as well as becoming trapped or entangled in fishing gear. The ever-increasing amount of ocean noise, including sonar
Marine mammals and sonar
Active sonar, the transmission equipment used on some ships to assist with navigation, has been suggested to be detrimental to the health and livelihood of some marine animals, although the precise mechanisms for this are not well understood. Some marine animals, such as whales and dolphins, use...

, drowns out the vocalizations produced by whales, which may make it harder for them to communicate. Human threats to the potential recovery of blue whale populations also include accumulation of polychlorinated biphenyl
Polychlorinated biphenyl
Polychlorinated biphenyls are a class of organic compounds with 2 to 10 chlorine atoms attached to biphenyl, which is a molecule composed of two benzene rings. The chemical formula for PCBs is C12H10-xClx...

 (PCB) chemicals within the whale's body.

With global warming
Global warming
Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and its projected continuation. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades...

 causing glaciers and permafrost to melt rapidly and allowing a large amount of fresh water to flow into the oceans, there are concerns that if the amount of fresh water in the oceans reaches a critical point, there will be a disruption in the thermohaline circulation
Shutdown of thermohaline circulation
Shutdown or slowdown of the thermohaline circulation is a postulated effect of global warming.There is some speculation that global warming could, via a shutdown or slowdown of the thermohaline circulation, trigger localised cooling in the North Atlantic and lead to cooling, or lesser warming, in...

. Considering the blue whale's migratory patterns are based on ocean temperature, a disruption in this circulation, which moves warm and cold water around the world, would be likely to have an effect on their migration. The whales summer in the cool, high latitudes, where they feed in krill-abundant waters; they winter in warmer, low latitudes, where they mate and give birth.

The change in ocean temperature would also affect the blue whale's food supply. The warming trend and decreased salinity levels would cause a significant shift in krill location and abundance.

Museums



The Natural History Museum in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 contains a famous mounted skeleton and life-size model of a blue whale, which were both the first of their kind in the world, but have since been replicated at the University of California, Santa Cruz
University of California, Santa Cruz
The University of California, Santa Cruz, also known as UC Santa Cruz or UCSC, is a public, collegiate university; one of ten campuses in the University of California...

. Similarly, the American Museum of Natural History
American Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History , located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City, United States, is one of the largest and most celebrated museums in the world...

 in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 has a full-size model in its Milstein Family Hall of Ocean Life. A juvenile blue whale skeleton is installed at the New Bedford Whaling Museum
New Bedford Whaling Museum
The New Bedford Whaling Museum is located in New Bedford, Massachusetts, USA. The museum, through its collections and exhibitions, tells the story of the international whaling industry and the history more generally of the "Old Dartmouth" area, the Southcoast of Massachusetts...

 in New Bedford, Massachusetts
New Bedford, Massachusetts
New Bedford is a city in Bristol County, Massachusetts, United States, located south of Boston, southeast of Providence, Rhode Island, and about east of Fall River. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 95,072, making it the sixth-largest city in Massachusetts...

.

The Aquarium of the Pacific
Aquarium of the Pacific
-External links:*...

 in Long Beach, California
Long Beach, California
Long Beach is a city situated in Los Angeles County in Southern California, on the Pacific coast of the United States. The city is the 36th-largest city in the nation and the seventh-largest in California. As of 2010, its population was 462,257...

 features a life-size model of a mother blue whale with her calf suspended from the ceiling of its main hall. The Beaty Biodiversity Museum
Beaty Biodiversity Museum
The Beaty Biodiversity Museum is a natural history museum in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Its collections include over two million specimens, including a 25-metre skeleton of a female blue whale buried in Tignish, Prince Edward Island.-Location:...

 at the University of British Columbia
University of British Columbia
The University of British Columbia is a public research university. UBC’s two main campuses are situated in Vancouver and in Kelowna in the Okanagan Valley...

, Canada, houses a display of a blue whale skeleton (skull is cast replica) directly on the main campus boulevard. A real skeleton of a blue whale at the Canadian Museum of Nature
Canadian Museum of Nature
The Canadian Museum of Nature is a natural history museum in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Its collections, which were started by the Geological Survey of Canada in 1856, include all aspects of the intersection of human society and nature, from gardening to gene-splicing...

 in Ottawa, Canada was also unveiled in May 2010

The Museum of Natural History in Gothenburg, Sweden contains the only stuffed blue whale in the world. There one can also find the skeleton of the whale mounted beside the whale.

The Melbourne Museum
Melbourne Museum
Melbourne Museum is located in the Carlton Gardens in Melbourne, Australia, adjacent the Royal Exhibition Building.It is the largest museum in the Southern Hemisphere, and is a venue of Museum Victoria, which also operates the Immigration Museum and Scienceworks Museum.The museum has seven main...

 features a skeleton of the pygmy blue whale
Pygmy Blue Whale
The pygmy blue whale is a subspecies of the blue whale found in the Indian Ocean and the southern Pacific Ocean....

.

Whale-watching


Living blue whales may be encountered on whale-watching cruises in the Gulf of Maine
Gulf of Maine
The Gulf of Maine is a large gulf of the Atlantic Ocean on the east coast of North America.It is delineated by Cape Cod at the eastern tip of Massachusetts in the southwest and Cape Sable at the southern tip of Nova Scotia in the northeast. It includes the entire coastlines of the U.S...

 and are the main attractions along the north shore of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence
Gulf of Saint Lawrence
The Gulf of Saint Lawrence , the world's largest estuary, is the outlet of North America's Great Lakes via the Saint Lawrence River into the Atlantic Ocean...

 and in the Saint Lawrence estuary. Whale-watching, principally of blue whales, is also carried out south of Sri Lanka; boats leave from Mirissa harbour. Blue whales can also be seen off Southern California, starting as early as March and April, with the peak between July and September.

External links