DISCLAIMER:I am a proud Tour Guide/Docent at the AMNH. The opinions, images, and links on my website do not represent the Museum in any official capacity. My website pages are a personal labor of love. They represent a life-long interest in the natural sciences and in a Museum that has been the foundation for a lifetime of learning. I urge you to visit the American Museum of Natural History’s website for further information about exhibitions and the sciences: www.amnh.org.
BLUE WHALES: The blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) is a marine mammal belonging to the baleen whales (Mysticeti). At up to 30 metres (98 ft) in length and with a maximum recorded weight of 173 tonnes (190 short tons and probably reaching over 181 tonnes (200 short tons), it is the largest animal known to have ever existed. Long and slender, the blue whale's body can be various shades of bluish-grey dorsally and somewhat lighter underneath. There are at least three distinct subspecies: B. m. musculus of the North Atlantic and North Pacific, B. m. intermedia of the Southern Ocean and B. m. brevicauda (also known as the pygmy blue whale) found in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean. B. m. indica, found in the Indian Ocean, may be another subspecies. As with other baleen whales, its diet consists almost exclusively of small crustaceans known as krill. Blue whales were abundant in nearly all the oceans on Earth until the beginning of the twentieth century. For over a century, they were hunted almost to extinction by whalers until protected by the international community in 1966. A 2002 report estimated there were 5,000 to 12,000 blue whales worldwide, in at least five groups. The IUCN estimates that there are probably between 10,000 and 25,000 blue whales worldwide today. Before whaling, the largest population was in the Antarctic, numbering approximately 239,000 (range 202,000 to 311,000). There remain only much smaller (around 2,000) concentrations in each of the eastern North Pacific, Antarctic, and Indian Ocean groups. There are two more groups in the North Atlantic, and at least two in the Southern Hemisphere. As of 2014, the Eastern North Pacific blue whale population had rebounded to nearly its pre-hunting population.
Humpback Whales: The humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is a species of baleenwhale. One of the larger rorqualspecies, adults range in length from 12–16 metres (39–52 ft) and weigh approximately 36,000 kilograms (79,000 lb). The humpback has a distinctive body shape, with unusually long pectoral fins and a knobbly head. An acrobatic animal known for breaching and slapping the water with its tail and pectorals, it is popular with whale watchers off the coasts of Australia and the Americas. Males produce a complex song lasting 10 to 20 minutes, which they repeat for hours at a time. Its purpose is not clear, though it may have a role in mating. Found in oceans and seas around the world, humpback whales typically migrate up to 25,000 kilometres (16,000 mi) each year. Humpbacks feed only in summer, in polar waters, and migrate to tropical or subtropical waters to breed and give birth in the winter. During the winter, humpbacks fast and live off their fat reserves. Their diet consists mostly of krill and small fish. Humpbacks have a diverse repertoire of feeding methods, including the bubble net feeding technique. Like other large whales, the humpback was and is a target for the whaling industry. Once hunted to the brink of extinction, its population fell by an estimated 90% before a moratorium was introduced in 1966. While stocks have since partially recovered, entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with ships, and noise pollution continue to impact the 80,000 humpbacks worldwide.
Baleen: The baleen whales (Mysticeti), also called whalebone whales, comprise one of two suborders of the Cetacea (whales, dolphins, and porpoises). They are the edentulous whales (the condition of being toothless to at least some degree), characterized by having baleen plates for filtering food from water, rather than teeth like in the toothed whales (Odontoceti).
Rorquals are the largest group of baleen whales, with nine extant species in two genera. They include the largest animal that has ever lived, the blue whale, which can reach 180 tonnes (200 short tons), and the fin whale, which reaches 120 tonnes (130 short tons); even the smallest of the group, the northern minke whale, reaches 9 tonnes (9.9 short tons).
Whale songs are used by whales for different kinds of communication. The word "song" is used to describe the pattern of regular and predictable sounds made by some species of whales, notably the humpback whale. This is included with or in comparison with music, and male humpback whales have been described as "inveterate composers" of songs that are "'strikingly similar' to human musical traditions". It has been suggested that humpback songs communicate male fitness to female whales. The click sounds made by sperm whales and dolphins are not strictly song, but the clicking sequences have been suggested to be individualized rhythmic sequences that communicate the identity of a single whale to other whales in its group and allows the groups to coordinate foraging activities.
Cetaceans are relatively large, generally characterized by streamlined bodies that glide easily through the marine environment. Approximately 78 species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises are included in the Order Cetacea. Cetaceans are broken into two Suborders, or main groups: Mysticeti (baleen whales) and Odontoceti (toothed whales). There are 11 species of baleen whales and 67 species of toothed whales.
A HUMPBACK WHALE CLEANING ITS BALEEN WITH ITS 20+ FOOT TONGUE
DISCLAIMER: I am a proud Tour Guide/Docent at the AMNH. The opinions, images, and links on my website do not represent the Museum in any official capacity. My website pages are a personal labor of love. They represent a life-long interest in the natural sciences and in a Museum that has been the foundation for a lifetime of learning. I urge you to visit the American Museum of Natural History’s website for further information about exhibitions and the sciences: www.amnh.org.