The beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas) is a cretacean which is native to the coastal waters of the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. Known as the white whale as well, the Delphinapterus leucas is the only known cetacean that has the white or whitish-grey color. In terms of physiological and anatomical characteristics, these marine mammals are quite different from other cretaceans.
Some subspecies of Beluga whales are near threatened and endangered species and their numbers have significantly gone down in recent years. They are victims of human activities that have led to climate change and the day is not far when all of them are listed as an endangered species. However, in general, there are hundreds and thousands of thriving subspecies of the Beluga whale such as the Russian Beluga whale.
In this Kidadl article, we're going to take you through some of the most incredible facts about beluga whales. So if you're curious about marine life in general and whales in particular, read on for a ton of beluga whales facts that you probably didn't know before. From this post, you can extract different kinds of relevant information about beluga whales such as the speeds at which they can swim under the sea ice and more. For more facts-based articles right here on Kidadl, check out fin whale and sperm whale.
What do they prey on?
Arctic cod, Greenland halibut, rose fish, Coho salmon, squid, shrimp and more
What do they eat?
Average litter size?
How much do they weigh?
Males: 2430 - 3530 lb Females: 1540 - 2650 lb
How long are they?
Males: 11 - 18 ft
Females: 9.8 - 13.5 ft
How tall are they?
What do they look like?
White or whitish-grey
What are their main threats?
Humans, killer whales, and polar bears
What is their conservation status?
Where you'll find them
Shallow waters, bays, fjords, canals, and coves in the Arctic region
Beluga Whale Interesting Facts
What type of animal is a beluga whale?
The beluga whale is a type of whale, found in the oceans.
What class of animal does a beluga whale belong to?
The beluga whale is a type of mammal, in the Animalia kingdom.
How many beluga whales are there in the world?
In 2018, it was reported that there are only 279 Cook Inlet beluga whales left in the world. Other subspecies number in the hundreds and thousands.
Where does a beluga whale live?
Beluga whales live in the ocean, particularly Artic waters.
What is a beluga whale's habitat?
Beluga whales are incredibly dynamic and flexible when it comes to adapting to a variety of habitats. The ideal beluga whale habitat includes places such as coves, canals, fjords, shallow waters, and bays in the Arctic Ocean. For these whales to thrive, their habitats should be continuously exposed to sunlight. In summers, belugas migrate from the Arctic region and live in river estuaries, where they socialize, feed and reproduce as well. The temperature of the waters is usually between 8-10 degrees celsius. Alaska's Cook Inlet region has mudflats where these whales spend a considerable part of the summer months. The females can be found in the Beaufort Sea, where they roam along with the young ones in open waters that are close to the land. Most adult males live in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago where the waters remain ice-covered. The variety of habitats during the summer months is indicative of the feeding habit differences and predators of the different subpopulations of the beluga whale.
Who do beluga whales live with?
Beluga whales live in packs.
How long does a beluga whale live?
On average, a beluga whale's life span ranges from 35-50 years in the wild.
How do they reproduce?
Most female belugas generally give birth once they are eight years old or above and can continue to give birth to calves until they're 25. However, after 25, their fertility significantly decreases and it's extremely rare for female beluga populations above the age of 41 to produce offspring. A female can only produce a single calf every 2-3 years. The mating season typically lasts from February to May. However, males and females may also mate during other periods. While it's not exactly known, but many experts believe that the low reproduction rate of the female beluga population is due to delayed implantation. The gestation period is typically 12-15 months long. The male beluga population experiences certain differences in the physical traits of their reproductive organs during mating season. For example, the mass of the testes typically doubles in weight during this period. Increased testosterone levels are also experienced by males prior to mating. Female populations typically give birth to calves in estuaries and bays where the water temperature ranges from 10-15 degrees celsius. Newborns take no time at all to swim alongside their mothers. The nursing of a baby happens underwater and the offspring remain dependent on their mothers until their beluga whale teeth appear.
What is their conservation status?
The conservation status of beluga whales is least concern. However, certain subspecies have been classified as near threatened or endangered species because of human activities, climate change, sea ice, oil spill and more.
Beluga Whale Fun Facts
What do beluga whales look like?
While a baby beluga whale is born grey, its color slowly changes to either white or whitish grey once it grows older. The reason for their white color is that it helps them in Arctic habitats such as the Eastern Chukchi Sea and the Eastern Bering Sea in terms of protection against killer whales and polar bears, who are their main predators. At its forehead's center lies the melon, which is an organ that most toothed whales have for echolocation. The melon is one of the most important aspects of the Beluga whale head. Its shape changes depending on the sound to communicate made by these white whales. The melon is also the reason behind the beluga whale squishy head. Instead of a dorsal fin, belugas have dorsal ridges. It is believed that the lack of a dorsal fin is the result of evolution, which ensures that belugas may adapt to the under-ice conditions typically found in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions.
How cute are they?
Beluga whales, like most whales, are quite big in terms of size. However, their distinct white color makes them look among the cutest marine mammals on the planet. They are very social animals as well, which contributes to their overall cuteness.
How do they communicate?
Belugas rely on a variety of clicks whistles and other forms of underwater noise to communicate. The sounds made by beluga whales are high frequency sounds, which has led to them being crowned as the 'canaries of the sea'. However, beluga whales don't have vocal cords, which is something they have in common with almost all other toothed whales. Specifically, the clicks are made during foraging and navigation, the whiles are made during social interaction, and burst calls are meant to signal aggression towards beluga whale predators and other threats in the wild. Apart from vocalizations for echolocation, they use a variety of vocalizations prior to and during mating as well. In all, beluga populations are known to produce up to 11 different sounds.
How big is a beluga whale?
The length of a killer whale is 6 - 8 m. Compared to that size, a beluga whale is around half the size.
How fast can a beluga whale swim?
The average underwater speed for most beluga whale populations ranges from 2-6 miles per hour (3 - 9 km per hour) while top speeds can go up to 17 miles per hour (27.5 km per hour). Generally, the species is only able to maintain its top speed underwater over short distances.
How much does a beluga whale weigh?
Male beluga whales weigh around 1100-1600 kg (2430 - 3530 lb) while female beluga whales weigh around 700-1200 kg (1540-2650 lb). The beluga whale size can range and affect their weight.
What are their male and female names of the species?
There are no gender-specific names for males and females of the beluga whale species.
What would you call a baby beluga whale?
A baby beluga whale is called a calf.
What do they eat?
The Beluga whale diet plays an important role in maintaining the food chain across the shallow water environments in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions such as the Bering Sea. As feeders, they are known for being opportunistic and will feed on whatever's available in their immediate environment. For example, belugas in the Beaufort Sea feed mainly on Arctic cod, while those located in and around Greenland eat northern shrimp, Greenland halibut, and rose fish. Belugas in Alaska eat Coho Salmon, which is native to regions in and around Alaska. Other things commonly eaten by a beluga population in its natural habitat include flounder, smelt, sole, sculpin, herring, and clams.
Are they hunted by humans?
Humans native to Canada, Alaska, and other Arctic regions have hunted belugas for a long time. Their high population density in coastal areas and estuaries and predictable migration patterns have contributed to frequent hunts.
Would they make a good pet?
Adopting any whale as a pet is difficult and the same can be said for a beluga whale. Belugas with scientific name Delphinapterus leucas thrive in the harsh cold conditions of the Arctic, which are incredibly difficult to recreate in a domestic environment outside the Arctic region. That's why belugas don't make for good pets.
Did you know...
Belugas suffer from a wide variety of respiratory, intestinal, and skin infections caused by different fungi, bacteria, viruses, and protozoa.
How much does a baby beluga whale weigh?
A beluga calf weighs around 54-66 kg (119-145 lb) at birth.
How long can a beluga whale hold its breath?
An adult beluga male can hold his breath for approximately 13.6 minutes, while an adult beluga female can hold hers for 12.5 minutes.
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