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Beluga whale

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Beluga whale
Beluga whale.jpg
Scientific Classification
Binomial Name

Delphinapterus leucas

Image Description
Beluga3.jpg

The Beluga whale is a species of whale known by the scientific name Delphinapterus leucas. Delphinapterus means "dolphin without a fin" and the name leucas means "white". The name beluga comes from the Russian word belukha, which means "white".

The beluga whale is one of two whales in the Monodontidae Family, the narwall is the other. [2]

Anatomy

Scientists tagging a Beluga whale in Cook Inlet near Anchorage

At birth, Belula whales are not white, they are grey and get lighter every year. Around age six, they become completely white. [3] Beluga whales grow to be about fifteen feet long and to weigh about three tons. Males are generally larger than the females. [4] Beluga whales can live up to fifty years old. [5] It only reaches full size at about age ten. [2]

The beluga whale has thirty-four small teeth that are not used for chewing, but for grabbing and tearing prey. [4] They also have muscles in their face that allow them to smile . [6] The forelimbs are pectoral flippers that are small in comparison to the rest of the body, they look slightly like a paddle. The flippers are used for steering and helping the flukes to stop. Flukes are the lobes of the tail; a deep notch separates the two. They are flattened pads that have no bone whatsoever. The beluga whale does not have a dorsal fin. This enables them to swim easily under ice to find a breathing hole. Their eyes are small and dark. Just behind the eyes are the ears. One blowhole is located on the dorsal side of the whale [2]

This whale a relatively slow swimmer, at the speed of five to six miles per hour. The plus is that they are able to swim backwards with it's flexible back. [7]

Reproduction

In order to reproduce, both the males and females have to have reached sexual maturity. Females are able to reproduce at five years of age, and males at 8 years of age. Mating season is in the spring. [8] One dominate male might mate with several female whales. [2] The gestation stage lasts about fourteen months. The female bears calves every two to three years. In the summer Beluga whales migrate to warmer waters to calve. When the calve is born it is about four to six feet long and one hundred ten pounds. [8]

Ecology

Beluga Whale Range Map

The Beluga whale eats fish, squid, crustaceans, octopi, and worms. The two predators of the Beluga whale are killer whales and polar bears. [4]

These whales stay in the arctic and subarctic waters during the summer and are usually found in coastal waters. They make seasonal migrations, which are caused by weather conditions. A pod is a group of Beluga whales. Most pods have two to twenty-five whales, but the average size is about ten. During migration, they migrate along with blowhead whales.

The habitat the Beluga whale lives in is like the narwal's. The Beluga whale is very social, which explains that the most common behavior of this whale is being vocal. This is where they get the nick-name "sea canary". Beluga whales vocalization has been described as high-pitched, resonant whistles and squeals, clucks, mews, chirps, trills and bell-like tones. Surprisingly, they are not just able to be heard in the water, but also out of the water. This vocalization is created by air moving between the whale's blowhole area and nasal sacs.

These whales do not perform out of the water tricks like killer whales and dolphins. [2]

In the News

In January, 2009, a diver named Yang Yun was in a free diving contest in North East China. When Yun was on her way up to the surface she suddenly became paralyzed with cramps in her legs. Mila (a Beluga whale) sensed that Yun was having fatal difficulties and pushed her up to the surface, saving her life. [6]

References

  1. Delphinapterus leucas Author Unknown, Itis Report, Accessed February 2, 2011.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Seaworld Author Unknown, Seaworld, Accessed February 3, 2011.
  3. Beluga Whale Author Unknown, Smithsonian, Date Accessed January 30, 2011.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 BELUGA WHALE Delphinapterus leucas Author Unknown, Enchanted Learning, Accessed January 25, 2011.
  5. Beluga whale Author unknown, Date Accessed February 3, 2011.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Beluga Whale saves diver Author unknown, July 29, 2009.
  7. Beluga Whale Facts Author unknown, Published 2/11/10.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Beluga Whale Author unknown, American Cetacean Society, Accessed January 28, 2011.