Aquarium of the Pacific | Online Learning Center | Blue Whale

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Blue Whale

Balaenoptera musculus

 |   Conservation Status:  Endangered - Protected

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  • © Mike Johnson. Used with permission.

The blue whale is believed to be the largest animal that has ever lived on Earth. It is a member of the family, Balaenopteridae, the rorqual whales. These baleen whales have a dorsal fin and throat grooves or pleats. The name “rorqual” is derived from a Norwegian word, “rockval”, that means furrow referring to the throat grooves.

There are three “true” whale subspecies of Balaenoptera musculus. In addition some researchers believe there is a fourth, the pygmy blue whale, B. m. brevicauda while others think the pygmy is merely a small true blue whale. The populations are geographically separated and do not intermix. Most are migratory.

Facts and FeaturesFull Description >>

Geographic Distribution

Seasonal breeding, calving, and feeding distribution in the global ocean’s tropic, temperate, and drift-ice polar waters

Amazing Facts

California’s picky eaters: There are about 90 species of krill found worldwide. The two species preferred by the California blue whale population are Euphausia pacifica and Thysanoessa spinifera. Both are 15-25 mm (0.6-0.8 in) long. E. pacifica inhabits deeper water toward the margin of the continental shelf and beyond in water 200-400 m (656-1312 ft) deep during the day, migrating vertically to the surface at night to graze on phytoplankton. T. spinifera is a coastal species inhabiting shallower water over the continental shelf, commonly at depths less than 150 m (492 ft) day and night. Researchers have determined the diet preferences of California’s blue whales by analyzing fecal specimens. The daily diet of juvenile blue whales appears to consist of half of each species whereas adult blue whales seem to prefer the coastal species, T. spinifera.

At the Aquarium

Our anatomically correct (88 ft) fiberglass model of a female blue whale is named Edie. The calf, a male, is called Edison. The blue whale is also featured in signage,Whales: A Journey with Giants (a large screen, multimedia presentation), and the interactive kiosk Whales: Voices in the Sea. Blue whales are seen in the wild as part of the Aquarium's Ocean Voyage, a whalewatching adventure on our local Pacific Ocean waters.