Blue Whales

Balaenoptera musculus

Blue whales are the largest animals ever known to have lived on Earth. They're endangered, with only 1,300 to 2,000 remaining in the world.

Blue Whale in the Pacific Ocean

Blue Whale in the Pacific Ocean.

© Greenpeace / Daniel Beltrá

Estimated population: 10,000, endangered.

Ways to identify this species: baleen whale, grayish blue skin with white spots, small dorsal fin set farther back.

Blue Whale Biology

  • Blue whales are migratory and spend winters in temperate, subtropical areas, then travel north to polar regions for the summer. They usually travel alone or in groups of two to four.
  • As largest animal ever known to have lived on earth, blue whales average 70-80 feet in length and can weigh up to 150 tons. Females are larger than males.
  • Blue whales can move at speeds of up to 30 mph and dive as deep as 1,640 feet, lasting ten to 20 minutes underwater.
  • Blue whales use baleen plates to strain food—usually krill—from the water.

Threats to Blue Whales

  • Considered extremely valuable due to their large size, blue whales were hunted extensively by commercial whalers before the practice was banned in 1986. The advent of industrial whaling using faster boats and harpoon guns allowed for increased hunting of blue whales. By the 1960s, the species was nearly extinct.
  • Despite decades of protection, blue whale populations have yet to recover from the impacts of commercial whaling. They now face new threats, such as pollution and entanglement in fishing gear.

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