Beluga whales are classified in the kingdom Animalia and phylum Chordata. They belong to the family Monodontidae and their scientific name is Delphinapterus leucas. They are also commonly known as the 'white whale' or the 'sea canary'. They are small in size and white in color. Younger belugas are slightly gray. The body is stout with a blunt head, a small beak, and a prominent melon on it. They don't have a dorsal fin like the other fish, but they have a narrow dorsal ridge.
Facts About Beluga Whales
There are some interesting facts which are unknown to many people as they think belugas have the same traits and characteristics like the other whales.
Usually, male belugas are larger than the females and grow up to 11 to 15 feet in length and weigh 1500 kg. The females are 9 to 13 feet long and weigh 1360 kg. Newborn calves are about 5 feet in length and 54 to 80 kg in weight. The adults are white in color and molt seasonally. Their life span is about 25 to 30 years and they become sexually mature from the 4th year for females and the 8th for males. The gestation of a pregnant female is 14 to 15 months and they nurse their newborns for 20 to 24 months after birth.
Habits and Habitats
Beluga whales are mostly found in the Arctic Ocean and the subarctic seas. They inhabit shallow coastal waters of the ocean but congregate to warmer freshwater estuaries and river basins during the summer. They are social and friendly by nature and hence congregate in groups of 2 to 25. As many as 200-10,000 belugas can migrate together to form large-sized pods (groups). They dive for almost 15 minutes while hunting for food and dive to a depth of 66 feet to hunt. The spout used to breathe from their blow hole is situated at the top of their heads.
Belugas love to chatter and sing. They can even be heard above the water when they make these communication sounds. They use a process called echolocation, wherein they make a sound such as a click in the water and this sound travels to the bottom of the sea. It is reflected by any object present at the bottom and is sensed by the whale as its prey. This is used by the belugas for hunting their prey. They make sounds like clicks, squeals, whistles, etc. to navigate and communicate in the deep dark waters of the ocean. This is one of the most breathtaking facts.
These are teethed mammals and have 34 teeth. They are meant for grabbing and tearing the prey but not chewing it. Belugas swallow their entire prey as it is and digest it in the stomach. Some of their favorites are squid, fish, crustaceans, worms, and octopi. They are oceanic and benthic feeders and hunt for groups of fish together. An adult beluga can eat 3% of its body weight per day.
There are some fun facts for kids too as these are the cutest animals to look at.
- The beluga whales are called the 'sea canary' as they sing songs in the sea while they communicate.
- They are slow swimmers but can swim 5 to 6 miles per hour and have the ability to swim backwards.
- The name 'beluga' comes from the Russian word 'belukha', which means white as the belugas are white in color.
- These are the only whales who have a flexible neck.
They are also social and make great friends. These facts prove that beluga whales are adorable creatures.