On 16 February, cetacean fans everywhere celebrate World Whale Day, paying tribute to these remarkable creatures while also raising awareness about the challenges that some of them face. With that in mind, we take a closer look at the biggest of them all…
The blue whale is the Largest animal ever, some specimens weighing in at a colossal 200 tonnes (440,000 lb), although 100–150 tonnes (200,000–300,000 lb) is the average. Even dinosaurs didn’t reach that size – for instance, it’s nearly 20 times heavier than a T. rex! The blue whale can grow up to 30 m (98 ft) long – around the same as a Boeing 737.
Found in all the world’s oceans, the blue whale travels thousands of miles every year, breeding in the tropics during the winter and swimming to more extreme latitudes to feed in summer. This also makes this species the Largest migrant in the animal kingdom.
Watch and read about more record-breaking animals on our dedicated pages
Perhaps surprisingly, this behemoth of the deep feeds mainly on some of the ocean’s smallest inhabitants: tiny crustaceans called krill that reach no longer than a few centimetres. It swallows them in great gulps of seawater before raising its tongue to its mouth, straining the briny liquid through baleen plates but retaining its prey. This unparalleled difference in size between predator and prey represents yet another natural record.
Intensive whaling in the early 20th century devastated the world’s blue whale populations. But thankfully, since being designated a protected species in 1966 its numbers have started to rise again. With our continuing support, blue whales will be around for future generations to marvel at for many years to come.
RECORD-BREAKING BLUE WHALE BIOLOGY
1: Each upper jaw features about 400 plates of bristle-like keratin called baleen, which traps the krill that the whale feeds on
2: Weighing in at 4 tonnes (8,800 lb), it is the Heaviest tongue of any animal
3: The brain is proportionately tiny. It tips the scales at around 6 kg (15 lb); for context, human brains weigh about 1.4 kg (3 lb)
4: That huge body demands a lot of oxygen, so little wonder that they also boast the Largest lungs, with a capacity of 5,000 litres (1,320 US gal)
5: The Largest heart of any living creature weighs in at around 680 kg (1,500 lb) – about the size of a VW Beetle car! It beats just four to eight times a minute – the Slowest heart rate for a mammal
6: The tail flukes are 7.6 m (25 ft) wide – nearly as long as a London double-decker bus
How big is the blue whale?
The blue whale is as long as...
- 1 Boeing 737
- 3 double-decker buses
- 5 African elephants
- 11 Smart Cars
- 17 humans
The blue whale is as heavy as...
- 4 Boeing 737s
- 15 double-decker buses
- 40 African elephants
- 270 Smart Cars
- 3,333 humans
More amazing cetacean records, from the Longest whale tooth to the Longest-lived mammal, can be found in GWR: Wild Things.