Whales are the giants of the marine ecosystem, adored by humans for centuries, yet we know so little about them. These marvellous sea creatures have dominated the oceans for millions of years and are among the most wonderful sights to behold for anyone alive. They give birth to young just like humans because they are marine mammals. Topping the gigantism list is the Blue Whale, the largest animal on our planet and here are ten amazing facts about them.
They Are Not All That Blue
From the name, blue whales are actually blue in colour to the eye, though when they surface, appear silvery -blue, with a yellow tummy. They appear blue when you look at them in the water but that is because of the colour of the sea. Their yellow tummies are the reason they are referred to the sulphur-bottom whales. The colouration is imparted by a type of algae that lives on the bottom of the whale’s body, giving it the yellow wish colour, which resembles the colour of the chemical element- Sulphur. The algae don’t harm them though as theirs is a symbiotic relationship.
They have a rather tiny diet
Blue whales need up to 40 tons of food per day, which would be an apocalypse if they had to kill fish and other sea creatures to stay alive. Luckily, they do not. Krill are small crustaceans found in most parts of the earth’s oceans. They are food to millions of sea creatures but the blue whales consume the largest quantity. It is incredible that the diet of the largest animal on the planet is one of the smallest sea creatures.
On estimation, the total weight of krill in the oceans surpasses that of all the human beings on the planet. That is how much they are available in the ocean. Meals with large amounts of krill at times causes indigestion leading to vomiting, which blue whales expel as a mass that later solidifies in the ocean. This vomit is valuable as some people seek it to create perfumes.
Blue whales are the largest animals to have ever inhabited the earth.
The African Bush Elephant is the largest living land animal yet 10 elephants are needed to measure up to one blue whale. Not even the dinosaurs, megalodon could grow this big. They measure up to 27 meters (89ft)-33 meters (110 ft) in length and can weigh up to 200 tones. Females being larger than males and having a lifespan of 80-110 years are among the longest-living creatures on earth.
Their closest living relative is the hippopotamus
Weird as it sounds, the hippo is the closest living relative of the blue whales. Hippos spend most of their time in the water, coming out only for a few hours especially at night to feed on vegetation. These two have a closer genetic resemblance than any other mammals in both land and sea.
It’s believed that a land-dwelling pig-like mammal (Indohyus) that resembled the hippo physiologically and maybe genetically, 52-47 million years ago, is the ancestor of both creatures. It is not clear why Hippos still feed on land while whales feed in the ocean, but whatever happened, they both seem to be doing just fine.
Their Tongue Is Larger Than A Full-Grown Elephant
Big creatures need large body parts to survive hence the ridiculously large statistics on Blue-Whale body parts. Their hearts weigh anywhere between 600 to 900 kilos which are heavier than a car. Its most interesting body part is the tongue though. The tongue weighs an average of 2.7 tones, which is heavier than an adult elephant. The tongue s also elastic and it helps the whales swallow huge volumes of water while swimming.
They are too big to survive on land
Unlike hippos which have legs and teeth that are essential to survive on land, Whales are only designed for swimming and feeding in water. Legs aren’t the only thing they lack to survive on land though. Blue Whales have heavy bones which would be adversely affected if gravity acted on them while they are in the body. Their arteries are also as wide as 23cm, meaning their blood pressure would be too low if they lived on land. They also need vast spaces to feed and move effectively and the plants, hills and all the obstacles on land just couldn’t allow for that.
If They Sleep They Drown
Whales live in water all their lives but they can’t breathe underwater. They have nostrils that hold large volumes of water allowing them to stay submerged for over 30 minutes. Most divers cannot go past 20. For whales, the trip back to the surface to breathe is vital which is why they cannot afford to be completely asleep. As a result, blue whale brains are divided into two and only one side is allowed to sleep at a time. If both sides of their brain are asleep, they will forget to come to the surface and breath which would mean certain death.
A Baby Can Disappear Through Their Nostrils
The Most conspicuous thing about blue whales is the blowing they do when they surface as they push water as high as 9 meters using their blowholes. They have 20 inch wide nostrils which are why observers agree that a baby could easily crawl through. The blowholes which are their nostrils stay closed underwater by splash guards to prevent water from flowing in which is why the air in them is usually pressurized and blows so high when the whales surface.
They Are One of the Loudest Animals On The Planet
Whale songs are the most interesting feature of whales. Whale songs are not so audible to us on the surface but if we were to scream underwater, we wouldn’t be nearly as loud as blue whales either. Blue whales’ songs can be heard over 1600KM away which is louder than a jet engine. The sounds are vital in their communication, especially during the mating season.
Humans Killed Over 90% Of Their Population
A recent research study confirmed that at least 60% of Blue Whales have been entangled in fishing gear at one point in their lives which is way higher than previously imagined. It means that human activity is still the greatest threat to the existence of these majestic creatures which have been on the verge of extinction for nearly 200 years. Heavy whale hunting in the 19th century saw over 90% of Blue Whales in oceans killed. The population in the Atlantic have recovered moderately but the fishing and the transport industry still threaten their existence.