Blue whales, the largest existing animal
on Earth, have been around for quite some time. These great beings, which were originally land mammals, have adapted to become massive and
overwhelming creatures. Though considered endangered, it does not make
these marine mammals any less interesting to many researchers around
the world. Blue whales are perhaps one of the most well known animals
because of their distinct size and structure. These massive
creatures have many unique traits and qualities that make them a very
interesting topic to learn about starting from where they got their
name and their creation.
The scientific name for a blue whale is Balaenoptera musculus. The
name originates from Latin balaena meaning whale and Greek pteron
meaning fin and/or wing. Musculus comes from Latin mus meaning mouse
which is quite ironic because of the blue whale's significant size
(Brower 2012, 3). Blue whales are Animalia and are categorized under Chordata for their
Phylum; meaning they have notochords. The notochord is a flexible
skeletal rod that supports the body of animals (Anonymous 2005, 1;S. 2012, 3).
Their class is Mammalia since they are warm blooded creatures that
feed their offspring with milk from their mammary glands until a
certain age (Anonymous 2012h, 1;
Anonymous 2012i, 1).
Their Order is Cetacea and their suborder is Mysticeti which is comprised of baleen whales (Anonymous 2012h, 1;
Anonymous 2012j, 1).
The blue whale is part of the rorquals family Balaenopteridae where
whales such as the Minke whale are included. These whales are
generally more slender than other whales, which gives them the ability
to swim faster (Anonymous 2012b, 1;
Anonymous 2003, 1).
The blue whale's genus is Balaenoptera and their species is called
Balaenoptera musculus also known as its scientific name.
has been thought for a very long time that blue whales, a member of
the Cetacea class, evolved from land mammals such as cows around forty
five million years ago. Researchers have discovered milk protein
evidence to support this theory and have concluded that the
hippopotamus is the closest relative of whales. These inferences come
from the idea that whales adapted to their environment over the
course of years. Their structures adapted to better themselves in the
water by having a body that is now capable of swimming fast, and
instead of having legs have joined flippers that let
them move in the water a lot easier and swifter. In other words, blue whales changed for their new home and habitat so that they would have a higher chance of surviving and would be more compatible with it (Anonymous 2012b,
The blue whale over the course of years has begun
migrating to the near waters of California from the northern parts of
the world such as Canada and Alaska. Researchers have found a
numerous number of whales on the coasts of routes they use to travel
on before they were hunted. This analysis has led researchers to
believe that blue whales are going to be on track with their previous
migration trails (Retner 2009, 1).
Blue whales can be spotted in cold waters such as Antarctica and
warmer areas such as the coasts of California. Their habitat consists
of chilly waters during summer to eat and during the colder months
they'll move towards the equator (Anonymous 2012f, 7).
Blue whales tend to stick to the poles for feeding and the equator to
breed with other blue whales (Anonymous 2012c, 3).
magnificent blue whale was, and still is, the largest animal on Earth
today, weighing at approximately one hundred and fifty tons and one
hundred feet in length. These remarkable marine mammals are
categorized as baleen whales; in other words in a group with animals
immense in size (S. 2012, 1).
The size of baleen whales typically allows them to store massive
amounts of energy as fat and maintain warmth. Blue whales are
commonly torpedo and/or cylinder shaped because it allows for better
movement in water without the need to waste much energy. The top half
of a whale, called the dorsal surface, is usually darker than the rest
of their body, which is called the ventral surface because it lets
them remain undetected by possible predators (Anonymous 2012d, 1).
Though called the blue whale, they are actually very much of a bluish
gray. Their undersides sometimes appear yellowish because of an algae
from the Bacillariophyceae class. The quote "the forelimbs of
baleen whales are pectoral flippers. Pectoral flippers have all the
skeletal elements of the forelimbs of terrestrial mammals, but
they're foreshortened and modified into paddle-shaped appendages"
explains how the structure of the Baleen whales help them maneuver in
the ocean (Anonymous 2012d, 2).
Blue whales have two long legs because it lets them travel farther
distances for feeding (Gill 2012, 1).
The blue whale is part of the Rorqual family who does have a joined vertebrate which gives them room for
flexibility. They have two blow holes on the top of their head that
they also use as nostrils. These blow holes are closed up with flaps
made from muscle which ensures that no water will enter through them (Anonymous 2012d,
6). The blue whale has the largest blow hole out of all the other
whales extending at nine meters. On the other hand, female whales
usually have a longer one that can reach out ten meters more than
that of a male. This specific characteristic of theirs allows them to
stay under water for long periods of time without resurfacing for
more air. The blue whale's head is less than one fourth of its entire
body and is very flat and large. It is shaped similar to that of the
letter "v" or "u." Additionally they have around
ninety throat grooves that lets them eat efficiently as it enlarges
their mouth enough so they'll be able to take in more (Anonymous
Despite the blue whale's enormous size, they tend to eat
the little critters of the ocean. Even though they eat some of the
smallest ocean animals, their portions are over four tons which is
equal to forty million little shrimp like species each day. A blue
whale's diet consists of Krill or Euphausiids, plankton, squid and
the other small fishes of the sea (Burande 2011, 5).
Their teeth are made of baleen which is very much like that of
fingernail material (keratin specifically) so that it doesn't
dissolve in water every time they eat. Blue whales eat by taking in
large amounts of water containing krill and using theirs tongue, push
out the water to swallow only their remaining prey (Anonymous 2011b, 2; Anonymous 2012b,
The blue whale normally lives to around the age of seventy to one
hundred (Welsh 2012, 3).
The blue whale's amazing respiratory system allows them to stay
submerged for over fifteen minutes at a time to feed. One researcher
named Goldbogen discovered that blue whales are capable of making up
to six lunges during their dive while feeding (Knight 2011, 2).
These marine mammals use their flukes as a jet in an up and down
motion unlike regular fish that swim side to side (Anonymous 2012b,
Blue whales generally reproduce at the age of six to ten when
they reach around the mid-seventies in length. Female blue whales
conceive after one year and can ovulate every two to three years.
When baby blue whales are first born they are around three tons and
the mid-twenties in length. They go through a span of time gaining
two hundred pounds and one and half inches per day. Once they reach a
certain length and weight they are an adult blue whale (Burande
Since whales are mammals, they are able to provide their offspring
with "breast milk" which they drink until they gain a
certain amount of weight.
The most intimidating structure of
a blue whale would most likely be its size and speed (Kenney 1998,
The blue whale does not have much of a defense besides its sheer
size/hearing and its mass that most carnivores will not try to aim for.
They have baleen plates which are useful while feeding because it
allows them to eat large amounts of krill at once without swallowing
gallons of water. These large marine mammals are capable of going up
to thirty miles an hour when fleeing from danger and have excellent
eye sight which lets them see dangers from far distances and allows
them to find food easier. Also, their best quality would be their
hearing, since they communicate from low frequency far away sounds and
are able to hear each other. Although the blue whale does not have
much of a defensive or offensive structure, they have traits that help
they stay alive for long periods of time. In consideration of the
blue whale's great size, it would be impossible for them to take long
rests without sinking to the ocean floor and that is why their ability
to take short naps is amazing. This specialty of theirs also enables
them to always be alert for signs of predators since they are awake
most of the time (S. 2012, 2).
One of the most amazing aspects of a whale is their
respiratory and circulatory system. Whales are capable of storing
about eighty five to ninety percent of oxygen which is more than
sixty percent of the amount that humans can at a time. Blue whales
have a lot of red blood cells which in turn allows them to pump
oxygen to their muscles and other parts of their body quicker. They
are also capable of slowing down their heart rate while diving so
that it does not waste as much energy, and returning it to a normal
heart beat after resurfacing for more air. While diving, blood is
only delivered to the important organs of the whale. Blue whales have
over time developed structures that help them block out water, since
they survive by breathing oxygen in air, by closing their ears every time they dive
(Anonymous 2012g, 3).
blue whale species once great in size has now been reduced to a mere
five thousand and is considered endangered. This was caused by
whaling in the twentieth century when grueling estimates of two
hundred thousand whales were killed for their resources. The only groups left
are situated in the North Atlantic, North Pacific and Southern
Hemisphere (Anonymous 2011, 5). Blue whales originally were safe from
harm because of their ability to swim fast and their mass. However,
after several human inventions/innovations they were left powerless
and soon were targeted by many. Soon after they became hunted for
their extensive oil supply and in the year 1931 mass slaughter
occurred when twenty nine thousand were killed just in one whaling
season (Anonymous 2012b, 5).
Scientists have in the last few years been
experimenting with sounds and blue whales to see their reactions to
the noise. They tested and determined if they reacted differently at
certain times of the day and have found no significant difference.
This study was to determine if blue whales had a behavioral response
to anthropogenic (man-made) noises. They have found that blue whales react
stronger when ships are nearby and have logged this in their studies.
Blue whales typically emit low frequency sounds. Researchers have
made an inference that their great ability to hear from far away
allows them to be in good range away from possible harm. The
information they gathered allows them to understand blue whales
better and how they go about on an everyday basis. The studies help
determine/figure out how good their hearing is and their behavioral
responses to such things (Mathevon 2011, 1).
Data collected between 2007 and 2010 was used to compare how far away
a blue whale could hear noise and react to it (Mckenna 2011, 1).
Another thing scientists have studied over the years is their skin
and blubber which is used to study their genetics and the amount of
pollution contained (Anonymous 2012, 3).
ago there was a myth among sailors that blue whales would help them
while they were abroad. If danger was nearby, a blue whale would
circle the ship precisely three times. The blue whale would then
sacrifice itself to save the crew members if there were more than
three signs of danger by exploding and taking the enemies with them
(Anonymous 2012k, 1).
After hearing this I always thought of whales as noble and loyal
marine beings. When I was younger I heard many stories relating to
whales and the ocean. I always found them interesting and wondered
what would be considered the “king whale” among them. I was
astonished to discover that the “king whale” was and still is the
largest animal on Earth today. This made me realize that the blue
whale was an interesting animal and has been one of my favorite
animals ever since.
Blue whales have
been one of the most interesting animals to read about and study
these past few years. Although they are mostly known for their size, they also have many other fascinating traits that are worth studying
and looking into. They first came from land mammals and later became
the largest animal in the world with a very complex respiratory
system. The great blue whale is now on track for extinction, but they
are an animal that will not easily be forgotten by scientists. These
great species stand out the most when grouped in a list of other
animals and are going to be for some time.