It’s no secret that the largest animal on earth lives in the ocean and is the blue whale. Marine mammals, including whales are beloved by many but none are as iconic as the blue whale. In this article we will be covering some basic information on the ecology of blue whales and answering the question “where do blue whales live?”.
Given that blue whales live in the ocean, there are few barriers that keep them in one place or another. Some individuals will travel great distances throughout the year, while some may spend most of their time in a single area. But they must migrate back to a certain spot on earth each year… right?
Let’s see what we can find out!
Where do blue whales live?
Blue Whales live in a lot of places on our blue planet! In fact, blue whales can be found in all oceans on Earth except for the Arctic ocean. However, in most cases, where Blue Whales are depends on the season because these gentle giants tend to make large migrations between feeding and breeding grounds.
When it comes down to it, the migration patterns and habits of blue whales are somewhat unknown and continue to puzzle scientists.
In the summer months, most Blue Whales will travel to cooler waters to feed on small invertebrates called krill. In the winter months, Blue Whales travel to warmer waters to birth and nurse their calves. However, there are reports in some areas of Blue Whales remaining there throughout the year.
Where do blue whales breed?
Blue Whales do not reach sexual maturity until they are at least 5 years old, but some may not breed until they are close to 15 years old. In general, reproductive activity happens in warmer waters closer to the equator. For example, Blue Whales in the Pacific ocean will often travel down to the warm waters off the coast of Mexico to breed.
Females do not reproduce every year, instead they may only give birth once every three years. Mothers will carry their calves for 10 to 12 months before birthing a single calf. From there, the calves will stay close to the mother to be nursed for 6 to 7 months. Babies will begin to wean from their mothers while on the move to the feeding grounds.
How far do blue whales migrate?
Ok, so we’ve answered “where do blue whales live” and “where do blue whales breed”… what about migration though?
Studying these mysterious creatures can be tricky as they are very elusive. So their migratory patterns are not well known. However, scientists have recorded an individual that traveled around 3,100 miles from their feeding grounds to breeding grounds. They are thought to travel at a very relaxed pace of about 5 miles per hour but may occasionally pick up the pace and swim as fast as 20 miles per hour.
More about blue whales
Where to see Blue Whales
While seeing a Blue Whale is certainly a very special experience that not many people can say they’ve had, there are certain hotspots that are known for whale watchers that travel there to hopefully get a glimpse of the largest animal in the world. However, your chances of seeing them also depends on when you go.
These hotspots include St. Lawrence Marine Park in Quebec, Canada (June-September), off the coast of Iceland (May-August), Pico Island in Azores, Portugal (February-March), Monterey Bay, California (July-October) and finally, Baja, Mexico (January-March).
Are Blue Whales endangered?
There are actually five different subspecies of Blue Whale which are found in different parts of the world- all of which are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Blue Whales are susceptible to human caused threats that are thought to impact populations. While whaling industries no longer legally hunt Blue Whales, their populations are still recovering from when they were hunted.
Additionally, they are often the victims of collisions with ships which may kill them on impact or severely harm them. Luckily, even with potential threats, population sizes are thought to be increasing.
What do Blue Whales eat?
Despite their large size, Blue Whales eat prey that is nearly microscopic. They feed almost entirely on krill. Krill are considered plankton and are very small crustaceans that look very similar to shrimp.
Blue Whales are grouped with other whales called baleen whales. Baleen whales do not have teeth, instead they have large bristles that line their jaws that are used during feeding.
These whales feed on small plankton by bringing large gulps of water into their mouth, then they force the water out of their mouth through their bristles or baleen, which acts like a strainer and catches the plankton for them to eat. This process is also known as filter feeding.
How big are Blue Whales?
These animals certainly live up to their reputation of being gentle giants as they are definitely giant! When they are first born, they are already huge and can be as large as 25 feet long and weigh 3 tons! Throughout their lifetime, they may grow up to nearly 100 feet long and can be as heavy as 190 tons.
But Blue Whales aren’t considered “grown up” or sexually mature until they are around 70+ feet long.
Do Blue Whales live in pods?
Blue Whales generally live a pretty solitary lifestyle and do not live or travel in pods. Sometimes they may encounter others in popular feeding grounds, and of course they interact with other individuals of the opposite sex during breeding season. However, they are typically loners which make them even more difficult to find and even harder to study.
If you ever see two Blue Whales traveling together, it is likely that it is a mother and calf. Babies tend to stay with their mothers for a year or so before parting ways.
More facts about blue whales
- Blue Whales eat a lot. During the feeding season in the winter, Blue Whales may eat up to 40 million of krill per day, weighing in at around 8,000 pounds of food daily.
- They are thought to be some of the longest living mammals on earth with an average lifespan of 80-90 years.
- Baby Blue Whales grow very quickly and can put on as much as 200 pounds per day for the first year or so of their life!
- They have virtually no predators because they are so large, but there have been accounts of Orcas working together to take down lone whales.
- The tongue of a Blue Whale is roughly the same weight as an elephant!
- They have the largest heart of any animal. Their hearts can weigh as much as 400 pounds and can be about the size of a golf cart.