Think dinosaurs were the largest animals ever to inhabit the Earth? Think again! That title belongs to an ocean dwelling heavyweight, the blue whale.
Before you get scared, get schooled.
Imagine an animal stretching to the length of three school buses and weighing in at fifteen school buses. Although the blue whale’s tongue alone can weigh as much as an elephant, it feeds exclusively on the tiniest of ocean life, shrimp-like crustaceans called krill. So, no reason to let this gentle giant’s size intimidate you. Even with a heavy heart, weighing as much as an entire car, it’s a lover, not a fighter.
Masters of the love song, Casanova males sing to attract and find a mate.
As one of the loudest animals on the planet, its songs can be heard over the sound of a jet engine and can travel across entire oceans.
The whale’s need to sing so loudly was discovered by scientists after commercial whaling’s heyday. After whaling devastated the population from the mid 1800s to the mid 1900s, there were fewer whales globally. Prior to the 1986 international ban on commercial whaling, an estimated 99% of the blue whale population was hunted and killed.
Males then needed to be heard over extreme distances to find a mate with higher and louder pitches used to locate sparsely scattered mates.
That’s a serious case of “singing the blues.”
But thanks to the 1986 ban set by the IWC (International Whaling Commission), blue whales are finally beginning to show some bounce back, and their “blues singing” doesn’t need to reach as far.
Scientists have discovered that the whales are singing at progressively lower pitches than in previous years…meaning they aren’t singing as loudly. Researchers think this is due to the whales’ rebounding population. An increasing population means more females within closer proximity.
Estimates suggest the global population could be in the ballpark of 10,000 to 25,000. While this is a huge improvement from the mere few thousand it was just after whaling, it’s still a far cry from the pre-commercial whaling population.
Today, the blue whale remains endangered. And though, regrettably, Japan has just announced that they will withdraw from the IWC and resume commercial whaling, we can continue to be the very loud voice of the blue whale and sing our song of whaling opposition across entire oceans.
In the meantime, let’s celebrate the blue whale’s higher numbers and the giant’s new song of hope.
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CHRISTY (CHICK) HUGHES is a freelance writer and a respiratory therapist living in South Walton. She and her husband moved to the beach in 2000. One sunset…and the couple never looked back. Find her at her blog chickhughes.com.