Blue Whale Facts ~ Blue Whale FAQ & Pictures

by Bob

in Sea Life, Whales

The largest whale species in the world is the Blue Whale. It’s the  largest animal that has ever existed.

Blue Whale

Blue Whale

Here are some blue whale facts:

What are some neat blue whale facts?

  • Its tongue can weigh as much as an elephant
  • Its heart is as big as a Mini Cooper
  • 100 people can fit in a blue whale’s mouth
  • A person could swim through their major arteries
  • Its heartbeat can be heard 2 miles away and beats once every ten seconds
  • Their throat is surprisingly narrow, preventing a blue from swallowing anything larger than a beach ball

How many types (species) of blue whales are there?
There are 4 (mostly) recognized subspecies of blue whales. note: population estimates are difficult to ascertain:

Indian Ocean blue whale

  • Population– ~2,000. only 3% of their 1914 levels 1
  • Length– 80 feet. Some consider them pygmy whales and thus not a separate subspecies
  • Location– Antarctica/Southern Ocean, eastern Pacific, eastern Atlantic Ocean, Indo-Pacific Ocean, western Atlantic Ocean

Antarctic blue whale– Largest of the 4 subspecies. Sometimes called the “true” blue whale.

  • Population– ~2,000. only 3% of their 1914 levels 1
  • Length– 105 feet
  • Location– Antarctica/Southern Ocean, eastern Pacific, eastern Atlantic Ocean, Indo-Pacific Ocean, western Atlantic Ocean

Northern blue whale– 2 distinct populations:  eastern North Pacific blue whale (California blue whale) and the western Northern Pacific blue whale

  • Population– ~3,000
  • Length– 90 feet
  • Location– north Atlantic Ocean, north Pacific Ocean

Pygmy blue whale– Stouter than the other 2 subspecies.

  • Population– 8,000
  • Length– 80 feet
  • Location–  southern Indian Ocean and southwestern Pacific Ocean
Pygmy Blue Whale

Pygmy Blue Whale credit © Hadoram Shirihai and Brett Jarrett

What is the size of a blue whale?
Female Antarctic blues can reach 100 feet and weigh 200 tons. As heavy as a fully loaded Boeing 767.

Boeing 767

Boeing 767

Is a blue whale’s heart really as big as a VW Bug?

Blue Whale Heart Replica

Blue Whale Heart Replica

How long do blue whales live?
80-90 years. This is determined by counting the layers of a deceased whale’s waxlike earplugs.3

What is the habitat of the blue whale?
Each of the 4 subspecies has a different geographic habitat. See above for specifics.

What do blue whales eat?
Krill (tiny shrimp) make up their primary diet.

How much food does a blue whale eat a day?
8,000 pounds/40 million krill every day.

How do blue whales catch their prey?
They look for swarms of krill, open their mouths wide and take in a huge gulp of krill and water. They then use their huge tongue to squeeze out the water through tiny hairs attached to large baleen plates (like a large furry strainer on both sides of their closed mouth).

This sequence illustrates the six-second feeding lunge of a fin whale. credit: Jeremy A. Goldbogen & Nicholas D. Pyenson graphic

This sequence illustrates the six-second feeding lunge of a fin whale. credit: Jeremy A. Goldbogen & Nicholas D. Pyenson graphic

Do blue whales have any predators?
Only killer whales (orcas) are able to kill younger, smaller blue whales. 25% of blue whales have residual scarring from orca attacks.

How many blue whales are there today?
Around 15,000 with 2/3’s of them in the Southern Hemisphere.

How many blue whales were there before whaling ships?

When did hunting blue whales stop?
Blue whale hunting was banned in 1966 by the International Whaling Commission.

Who oversees their protection?
The International Whaling Commission. They set the catch limits on all whales worldwide.

Are blue whales still hunted?
Although its illegal, some countries still catch blue whales but the numbers taken are unknown.

Are female blue whales larger than the males?
Yes, they are slightly larger. So, the largest blue whales are always females.

Explain the blue whales reproduction cycle?
Blues are solitary whales, for the most part but once every 3 years in late July and early August they begin pairing up, where a male will follow a female for several weeks. If a second male approaches, the female will compare their physical abilities by racing along the surface of the water, resulting in some violent encounters. How the female chooses her mate is unknown.

If copulation is similar to other whales, then it is brief (under a minute) with the male then abandoning the female.

Blue Whale Male Reproductive Organ

Blue Whale Male Reproductive Organ. credit:

The fetus then grows about an inch per day, reaching 24 feet after 12 months at which it is born tail first to prevent drowning. The baby blue immediately swims to the surface for its first breath of air.

Baby blues drink 50 gallons of mother’s milk during their first 6-12 months of life, gaining 200 pounds per day. During this time period, the mother eats nothing. At 6-12 months they are weaned and begin eating krill.

What age are blue whales when they begin to mate?
5-10 years.

How large are blue whales at birth?
24 feet and 6,000 pounds.

Do blue whales make sounds?
Yes. Each population group has their own distinctive calls. One sound they make resembles a tuba. They are the loudest animals in the world with sounds reaching 188 decibels and their calls travel for 100s of miles to perhaps communicate with other blues. The Scripps Whale Acoustic Lab has blue whale calls recorded which you also download as a ringtone.

How fast can a blue whale swim?
Short bursts of up to 30 mph.

Are there any blue whales in captivity?

Is it possible to keep a blue whale captive?
Not realistically. You would need some type of filtered salt-water containment the size of a large, deep lake plus the fact that it eats 8,000 pounds of krill per day would make it prohibitively expensive. One could conceivably keep a baby blue whale captive for a short period of time before its 200 pounds/day growth pattern would force its release.

Are blue whales endangered?
As a species, blue whales are considered endangered by the IUCN. The relative abundance of pygmy blues (10,000) skews this number as the other 3 subspecies are considered critically endangered with an approximate total pop. of ~5,000.

Blue Whale Endangered

Blue Whale is listed as ‘Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™

Can a blue whale be kept as a pet?
Blue whales are quite popular as pets in the UAE.

Where is the the famous ‘Whale Bone Arch’ located?
In the Isle of Lewis in Scotland. Here

The Whale Bone Arch

The Whale Bone Arch

blue whale heart-blue whale in captivity-weight of blue whale heart-

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