It is a well-known fact that the Blue Whale is the largest animal ever to have lived on earth, growing lengths of 100 feet and can weigh as much as 440,000 pounds.
Their tongues alone can weigh as much as an elephant, and their hearts, as much as a car!
Despite being so massive, these giants of the ocean feed on some of the world’s smallest marine life, these tiny shrimp-like animals called krill.
A single adult blue whale can consume up to 4000 kg of krill a day. This is about the same as a whole hippopotamus or about seven polar bears.
Considering all this weight and how much they consume in a day, they are very graceful swimmers cruising the ocean at over 8km/h and can reach speeds of over 30km/h.
Blue whales have few predators but are known to fall victim to attacks by sharks and killer whales, and many are injured or die each year from impacts with large ships.
Did you know blue whales are actually a light mottled blue-grey, with light grey undersides? The colour from the water and the light from the sun makes them look a deeper blue than they actually are.
Have you ever wondered how a blue whale sleeps underwater even though they need to come up to breath every hour or so?
Well, they do something called ‘conscious sleeping,’ this is something other whales and dolphins do. They never fall asleep entirely; instead, they only rest one half of their brain at a time. The other half stays awake to prevent them from drowning.
The whale’s mouth has a fascinating row of plates fringed with bristles to filter its main source of food, plankton from the water. There is what looks like a moustache of long bristles on the end of each plate to help it hold the tiny prey.
With each mouthful, the whale can hold up to 5,000 kg of water and plankton. Having forced the water out of its mouth, the whale licks these bristles with its huge fleshy tongue.
Females breed only once every three years, and gestation is between 11-12months. Females usually only have one young. The calf is suckled in the water, drinking more than 600 litres of milk each day and gaining about 90kg every day for its first year.
A baby blue whale emerges weighing up to 2,700kg and up to 8m long. Newborn whales are helped to the surface of the water by their mothers and are often encouraged by other females to take their first breath of air.
In addition to being the largest animal in the world, they’re also amongst the longest living animals. The average Blue Whale lifespan is 80 to 90 years, but some live to 110 (Bowhead whales are the longest living mammal, at over 200 years).
Strangely, a whale’s age is calculated by counting the layers of their waxy earplugs, just like trees!