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Discovery Magazine 9/1/2003

The Uncontested Queen of the Deep

At birth, she measures almost 25 feet long and weighs in at over 6,000 pounds. As a baby, she consumes 100 gallons of milk each day. She uses this highly nutritious and fatty milk for some extreme growing. And grow she does—11/2inches in length per day, while gaining 10 pounds every hour. Sometimes it might seem that feeding at her mother’s side is all that this not-so-little baby does, and that’s pretty much correct. Yes, this baby Blue whale has a long way to go—if she wants to be the “queen of the deep.”

Size

Dinosaur skeletons can be found in museums across the world. They fill our toy stores, movies, and imaginations, even though no one alive today has ever seen a living one. All that is left of the mighty dinosaurs are their fossilized remains. But, did you know that the dinosaurs, even though many of them were terribly massive beasts, were not the largest animals ever to live? While they were the largest animals ever to walk the Earth, they were lightweightscompared to one mammal that is swimming in our oceans today—the Blue whale.

The Blue whale is the largest animal that has ever existed on the Earth —larger than any shark, elephant, or dinosaur. The Blue whale holds the title all by itself. By the time the baby’s motherstops feeding it milk, the young calf (as baby Blue whales are called) has reached a length of 52 feet,and weighs somewhere around 23 tons (or 46,000 pounds). But, that is only the beginning. The largest Blue whale on record was a fe-male, caught and killedby whale hunters in the Antarctic Ocean. She was around 110 feet long, and weighed an amazing 196 tons—almost 400,000 pounds!

If you happened to be inside one of these huge monsters, there would be plenty of room to move around. The heart of a Blue whale can be the size of a VolkswagenTM Bug, weighing 2 tons. The aorta, which is the largest artery carrying blood from the heart, is so big that a five-year-old child could crawl through it. The rest of the whale’s blood vessels are large enough for fish to swim through them.  And, you and 49 of your friends, if you were brave enough, could stand on the Blue whale’senormous 8,000-pound tongue.

Diet

You probably have been thinking to yourself, “I know that sharks are carnivores that eat other fish in the sea, and elephants are herbivores that forage through trees and bushes on the African plains. But, what would the largest, most massive creature in existence find to satisfy its hun-ger?” The answer to that question is quite surprising! The normal meal for a Blue whale consists almost entirely of organisms called krill. Krill are tiny shrimp-like crustaceans, usually weighing only half an ounce. The whales must consume 4 to 6 tons of krill per day to maintain a healthy diet, which equals about 40 million krill.

Blue whales belong to a specific group of whales known as baleen whales. These whales are named for the structures they use to collect their food. Interestingly, these structures, known as baleen, are comb-like fibers that are made from the same material found in human fingernails. Blue whales take huge mouthfuls of water, which they strain through their baleen in order to capture the krill, while allowing the water to pass through. The Blue whale has 50 to 80 grooves on its throat that expand during feeding. In one gigantic gulp, it can hold 50 tons (or 12,000 gallons) of seawater inside its mouth.

Habitat

Being the largest animal on Earth,Blue whales roam wherever they want.They can be found in every oceanon the planet. During the summer months,they are found feeding in the Polar Regions,and in the winter months they migrate to warmer watersto bear young. Blue whales have been seen traveling in groups of up to 50 or 60 individuals. They are good swimmers, usually found cruising at close to 12 miles per hour. But, if they are alarmed, scared, or defensive, they have the ability to reach speeds up to 30 mph.

Whales communicate with one another through extremely loud, low-frequency “songs.” Underwater, sound waves travel faster than in the atmosphere, helping the whale’ssongs to travel great distances. Actually, the whale’s songs have been heard over 500 miles away. But speed isn’t the only factor. The intensity and frequency of the sound also helps to determine how far the songs will travel. On the decibel scale, which measures the intensity of a sound, the human ear is able to tolerate soundsonly around 120 decibels (dB). Normal human conversation is around 50 dB, while a roaring jet engine reaches 150 dB. But, marine biologists have measured Blue whale songs that have reached an amazing 188 dB. These measurements have established the Blue whale as the loudest animal on Earth.

The last interesting fact about whales that we will mention brings all of the information to-gether,proving how perfectly the Blue whale has been designed. If the Blue whale lived anywhere outside the deep, salty ocean, the poor animal would be crushed under its own weight. The incredible size, the enormous diet, and the immense habitat of the Blue whale make this creature a fascinating animal to study. God designed our Earth, without flaw, to function and sustain life. “And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly…and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas” (Genesis 1:21-22, KJV).



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