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Beluga whale

Scientific NameDelphinapterus leucas

English nameBeluga whale

Body size3 to 5 m

WeightFemales average 1,350 kg and males 1,500 kg in weight

Lifespan32 to 40 years in the wild

DietMainly fish

ReproductionViviparous

DistributionThe arctic and sub-arctic waters.

  • Beluga whale

    Beluga whale

  • Beluga whale

    Side view of beluga whale

  • Beluga whale

    Side view of beluga whale

  • Beluga whale

    Side view of beluga whale

  • Beluga whale

    Side view of beluga whale

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    Anterior view of beluga whale

  • Beluga whale

    Beluga whale, close-up

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    Beluga whale head detail

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    Inside the mouth of a beluga whale

  • Beluga whale

    Inside the mouth of a beluga whale

  • Beluga whale

    Inside the mouth of a beluga whale

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    The breathing holes of beluga whales

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    Beluga whale exhaling at surface

  • Beluga whale

    Beluga whale exhaling at surface

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    Beluga whale 'spy hopping'

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    Adult beluga whale with head above water

  • Beluga whale

    Adult beluga whale with head above water

  • Beluga whale

    Adult beluga whale with head above water

  • Beluga whale

    Beluga whales pod try to eat fish in ice

  • Beluga whale

    Beluga whales pod try to eat fish in ice

  • Beluga whale

    Beluga whale pod

  • Beluga whale

    Beluga whale pod

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    Beluga whales swimming at the surface

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    Beluga whale swimming underwater

  • Beluga whale

    Beluga whale pod swimming underwater

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    Beluga whale play with objects in the water

  • Beluga whale

    Beluga whale play with objects in the water

  • Beluga whale

  • Beluga whale exhaling at surface

  • Beluga whale swimming at surface

  • Beluga whale 'spy hopping'

  • Beluga whale play with objects in the water

  • Beluga whale pod play with objects in the water

  • Beluga whales pod try to eat fish in ice

Biology Description

• These whales are common in the Arctic Ocean's coastal waters, though they are found in subarctic waters as well [5].

• It is the only species of whale that is entirely white, although it is born gray and fades gradually with age [3][5].

• Beluga whales lack a dorsal fin, but have a shallow ridge along their back [8]. Without a dorsal fin, they have less surface area for heat loss, and can more easily swim just below ice sheets to locate breathing holes [6][7].

• A beluga whale's body is fusiform, but robust and stocky. It may have thick folds of blubber, especially along its ventral surface [6].

• They are 3 to 5 meters length,with males growing up to 5.5 m long [2].Belugas are sexually dimorphic, with the males being slightly larger than the females. Females average 1,350 kg and males 1,500 kg in weight [3].

• Unlike most cetaceans, beluga whales have an extremely flexible neck and can turn their head almost 90 degrees to the side [4].

• They have a very thick layer of blubber which may be up to 15 centimetres thick that provides insulation in the freezing arctic waters [4][8].

Diet

• The beluga whale feeds on a wide variety of fish, bottom-dwelling invertebrates and worms [4].

• Belugas feast on a variety of prey including smelt, flatfish, flounder, sculpins, salmon, and cod. They also feed on invertebrates such as crab, shrimp, clams, worms, octopus, squid, and other bottom dwelling creatures [3].

• An adult beluga will eat about 2.5% to 3% of its body weight per day, or 50 pounds (25 kg) of food a day, or more [7].

Distribution

• These whales are common in the Arctic Ocean's coastal waters, though they are found in subarctic waters as well [5].

Beluga whale

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Habitat

• The habitat of beluga whales includes inlets, fjords, channels, bays, and the shallow waters of the artic seas that are warmed by continuous sunlight. They are also found at the mouths of river during summertime, where they feed, socialize, and deliver their offspring. These waters are usually 8 to 10 degrees celsius [3].

Reproduction

• Belugas tend to mate from late February to early April [3], but some mating occurs at other times of year [2].

• Gestation lasts about fourteen months. However, it is a possibility that these creatures have delayed implantation [2] [3].

• A calf is born during the summer months of May through July. The calf is very well developed and has a grayish coloration [3].

• This usually happens near rivers because the water is ten degrees warmer there. This is important for the calf, which does not have as much blubber as a full grown adult [3].

• The calf is totally dependent on the mother’s milk for a year, after this, they start to supplement their diets with shrimp and small fish. But lactation lasts 1.5 to 2 years [2] [3].

• It takes 4 to 7 years for females to sexually mature, and it takes 7 to 9 years for males [3].

• Females reproduce every 2 to 3 years. Females stop reproducing in their early twenties [3].

Behavior

• Belugas are gregarious and form groups of up to 10 animals on average [2].

• The beluga whale is a highly social animal, and in the summer months thousands of individuals can be seen gathered in estuaries [4].

• Their voices are so loud that they sound like birds, which is why they were once nicknamed “sea canaries” [3].

• Beluga whales use a wide range of vocalisations such as clicks, grunts, squeals, screeches and whistles [4]. They are very vocal communicators that employ a diversified language of clicks, whistles, and clangs. Belugas can also mimic a variety of other sounds [5].

•  Beluga whales are able to dive to depths of over 1,000 metres [4], but usually only dive to depths to 20 m [2].

•  A dive normally lasts 3 to 5 min, but can last up to 18 min [2].

• Five to ten percent of a beluga's time is spent at the surface of the water[2][3].

• Belugas are swimming slowly. They swim about 9 to 10 km per hour [3].

• Communication is achieved by using the melon for echolocation [3].

• In summer months, large numbers of beluga whales gather in estuaries to moult. They rub themselves on the gravel bed and shed the yellow, withered skin of the previous year to once again become gleaming white[4][6][8]

• They also play with objects in the water together or by themselves. These objects are not limited to wood, plants, dead fish, and bubbles that they created [3].

• Since they don’t have many big, sharp teeth to grab their prey, they use suction to trap it into their mouths. Consequently, everything must be eaten whole. Prey cannot be too large, therefore, or the beluga will choke on it [3].

Lifespan

• The life span for females is thought to be about 32 years and that for males about 40 years [3].

Conservation

• The Beluga whales is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List [1].

Beluga whale

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