One of the most incredible aspects on Earth is nature. It is home to creatures and plants of all species. The variety of components of nature is practically infinite. In fact, according to research, the average person is aware of only 10% of all living things on the planet. Well, luckily, we have all heard of the mighty creatures of the ocean; whales. Whales are the largest sea and land creatures.
This feature makes them some of the most sought-after animals by scientists and tourists. Indeed, one would never want to miss out being awed by these gigantic legends. Be ready to be thrilled by a living creature so big, you would feel like a microorganism before it. Below is a list of the world’s largest whales.
#10: Minke Whale
At position is the Minke whale, one of the largest creatures on Earth. It is also called the lesser rorqual whale. There are various subspecies of Minke whales such as common, dwarf and Antarctic Minke whales. They measure up to 24 feet long. From common sightings, these whales travel alone or in pairs but not more than that. They have furrows or grooves along the throat that spread out to corner prey when hunting.
They are mostly observed on shallow waters. some of the dangers these whales are exposed to include collisions with ships and boats and whaling. Their main diet consists of small schools of fish and zooplankton. They have particularly selective feeding from spring through autumn. It is also quite fast.
#9: Bryde’s Whale Complex
This term is used to show that there are two or three species of this type of whale. The maximum length they can measure is 49 feet and weigh up to 40 tons. They feed on krill, squid, schools of fish and other small crustaceans. They are named after Johan Bryde, a founder of the first whaling factory. It is the only whale with the least migratory behavior, living in the temperate waters of the equator for the entire year. Bryde’s whales are solitary, though can at times be found in small groups, particularly mother and calves. The whale is especially shy and does not reveal more than its head when breaching.
#8: Greyback Whale – “Devil Fish”
At number 8 is the grey whale, which is among the giants of the sea. It measures up to 49 feet long. That is as tall as the Hollywood Sign. It weighs 36 tons, the weight of about 15 full-sized pickups. Its name is derived from the grey and white patterns on its body. its calves have a darker coloration which gradually grows into grey. It is a baleen whale found in the coasts of North Pacific, Atlantic and have been sighted in the Mediterranean and even south on the coast of Namibia.
Researchers have made observations of this exuberant migrator across the Pacific. The Grey Whale is a bottom feeder and its main food is amphipods, isopods, small fish and red crabs. They, therefore, stay around the continental shelf where they can scoop sediments from the ocean floor. It is known as the ‘Devil Fish” due to its persistent resistance during capture. Grey mother whales are also vigorous protectors of their calves. Mating among grey whales strangely involves 3 or more individuals. The gestation of a grey whale is up to 13 months.
#7: Sei Whale
This is also a large mammal with unique migratory behavior. The name Sei is actually Norwegian for coalfish. The whale was named that because it appeared at the time of the year when the coalfish would appear. It can measure up to 64 feet long, longer than a bowling lane. Weight can reach 28 tons. That is almost 3.5 times as heavy as a full-grown elephant. Despite the size, the Sei whale is known to be fast, traveling at speeds of 31 mph. The diet of a Sei whale mainly involves krill, copepods, and zooplankton.
A whale can consume a whopping 900 kilos of food daily. It migrates from the subpolar waters in summer to the temperate subtropical waters where mating takes place. Whaling wiped out a great deal of Sei whales, leaving only a third of the original population. The main cause of death of Sei whales is said to be endemic poisoning, of which there was an unfortunate death of 337 whales on the shores of Chile in 2015.
#6: Humpback Whale
Interestingly, the humpback does not actually have a humpback. It was named that because whenever the whale is about to take a deep plunge in the water, it arches its back, creating a hump-like formation. The humpback measures up to 60 feet long and weighs 40 metric tons, an equivalent of 5 Tyrannosaurus rex. They are the most prominent migrators in the whale species. They travel up to 4900 km a year.
The greatest migration ever recorded was an amazing 18,840 km journey. They migrate to the temperate waters around the equator during summer. Also, they make quite a show with their acrobatic styles. Humpback whales are excellent at breaching, despite their great size and weight. They propel their bodies out of the water and splash back with ease. This behavior, according to some scientists, is a display of health to impress the females during mating season. The lifespan of a Humpback whale is about 50 years.
They filter feed on small crustaceans and planktons. They are identified by particular deep furrows running along their throats. Humpbacks are mainly found in the North Pacific, the Gulf of Alaska and Maine and even the Arabian Sea. Humpbacks are sometimes loners, but they can travel in pods, that is, a group of two or three. Another infamous characteristic is their haunting songs; a mixture of howls and cries, and moans that goes on for hours. The males are the singers and can be heard up to 30km away.
#5: Bowhead Whales
These are the well-known giants of the Arctic waters. The name bowhead was derived from the shape of their heads. Bowhead whale movements are affected by ice melting and freezing in their habitat. Their large heads have powerful skulls and strong bodies which enable them to break ice up to 7 inches thick. In fact, the skull of a Bowhead reaches a third of its entire body. They have a thick blubber, about 50 cm thick, that preserve warmth in their bodies in the cold Arctic. That is so far the thickest blubber in any whale species.
An adult Bowhead whale can weigh 75 tons. That is more than the weight of The Space Shuttle. They measure 50 to 60 feet long. They are remarkable in breaching and have so much leap power, they can jump completely out of the water. They feed on zooplankton at the bottom and shallow ends of the ocean. A bowhead can eat up to 2 tons of food a day. commercial whalers in the 20th century wiped out a large population of Bowhead whales. Today, the number is approximately 10,000.
#4: Sperm Whale
The name was derived from spermaceti or sperm oil, which was sought after by commercial whalers for production of candles, oil, and lubricants. This substance was initially mistaken for the whale’s semen but it is actually a thick waxy substance called Ambergris found in the head. They are famous for having the largest brains in the world, weighing whopping 17 pounds, 5 times heavier than the human brain. They are also the largest toothed predators. They have 20 to 26 teeth on each side of the lower jaw.
A tooth weighs one kilo. These enormous teeth, however, are not used as much for hunting as you would think. They are mainly used by bull whales to fight rivals. Researchers also use analyze the dentine layers on the teeth to determine the age of the whale. Sperm whales can grow up to 52 to 67 feet long and weigh 40-57 tons. They can live up to 60 years. Diving up to 7400 feet deep, Sperm whales are the second deepest divers of all whales.
They communicate with each other through echolocation, that is emitting echoes and listening for calls from other whales. Young males live in groups with the females but eventually branch and travel alone once they mature.
#3: Right Whale
There are three particular species, the North Pacific, North Atlantic and Southern whale. They got their name because, during the whaling period, the whalers believed they were the right whales to hunt. This is because the whales are slow skimmers, traveling the only 10mph for a short period of time. They were also calm and easy to take down. The thick blubber on their bodies made them float after they were killed and was raw material for oil production. Though the post whaling period has seen a slight increase in the population.
Right whales are killed by other factors such as entanglement to fishing nets and ship strikes. An adult Right whale can measure up to 55 feet long and weigh 70 tons. They mainly feed on copepods, krill, and pteropods at the bottom of the ocean. The females reproduce every 3-5 years. An interesting fact is that the Right whale has the largest testes, even larger than the bull whale. They are of the baleen species hence filter feed.
They travel south for winter where they mate and calve and migrate North during spring. they communicate through vocalization. A whale can live from 70 to 100 years. There are around 400 Right whales left in the world and scientists are hoping to preserve that population and better, increase it.
#2: Finback Whale
With the length of up to 80 feet and weight of 70 tons, the Finback whale is the second largest whale in the world. it seems to have a lot of nicknames derived from its features and characteristics. The longest Fin whale measured 89 feet long. It is also one of the fastest whales and can reach a maximum of 29 mph, leading to their nickname “greyhound of the sea”. They have a unique ridge running along its back, hence the name razorback.
The Fin whale has an asymmetrical coloration which it is known to use to hunt for fish. According to researchers, the Fin whales circle and display their white underbellies to the targeted fish, scaring them into a tighter bunch which is easier to capture. Apart from the fish, the Fin whale feeds on krill, squid, and crustaceans. It has a characteristic color on the lower jaw, white on the left and black on the right side.
Commercial whaling is the biggest threat to Finback whales and the population today is about 50,000. They mate and calve during winter in the temperate waters. The gestation period of a mother Fin whale is one year.
#1: The Blue Whale
This mighty creature stands at number one in the whale kingdom. It is by far the largest animal to ever exist on Earth. The Blue Whale measures up to 100 feet (30 meters) in length. That is like 5 times the length of a giraffe. An average adult human is about 5ft 5 inches.
That means it would take almost 19 people linked by their head and tail, to reach the full length of a Blue Whale. The weight of an adult whale is 2000 tons or more. Considering a human of 70 kg, that is an equivalent of 28580 people. The enormity of this creature is incredible. Its heart weighs up to 1400 pounds, more than the weight of a polar bear. The tongue weighs 2700 kg, almost 600 kg heavier than a rhinoceros.
Amazingly, despite the large body and weight, the bull whale has a very small brain. The brain is about 7 kg heavy. Blue whales were most prominent in the Antarctic with populations of 240,000. However, when whaling began, the population dropped drastically. They are now found in the North of Atlantic, Pacific and Indian ocean with an approximate population of 10,000 to 25,000. The diet of this ocean giant is mainly krill and zooplankton. Whales are interestingly loners, but sometimes travel in pairs.
The females are slightly longer than the males but less heavy. A newborn calf weighs about 2700kilos, that is as heavy as two elephants. The calf can take up to 400 liters of milk daily. The Blue Whale continues to hold its position as the largest whale in the world.
Whales are a fantastic sight of nature. Admittedly, it is interesting to think such an enormous creature exists. More of their facts are bewildering; such as a 60-ton animal leaping fully out of the water. Though the whale population was brutally cut down during the whaling period, we still have the few thousands remaining. The problem may not be whaling anymore. It is now suffocating them in fishing nets and striking them with our ships. The world needs to protect and appreciate this magnificent creature before it goes into extinction.