Gray Whale, misc questions

From: Dagmar Fertl (
Date: Thu Mar 30 2000 - 08:48:18 EST

Dr. Fertl,

1) How much weight does a gray whale lose during the annual

2) What is the closest living relative of the gray whale as suggested by
molecular evidence?

3) Are gray whales found worldwide?

4) Are they alone in their taxonomic family?

5) Can you suggest websites for further research?

Richard Lemmons
Hi Richard,

1. I wasn't able to really locate the exact figure, but can provide you with
some numbers that might help. During the northward migration and while the
gray whales are on the feeding grounds, they gain about 5,063 kg in rendered
oil. This is a weight gain of 16-30%. Scientists calculate that 61,370 kg of
amphipods (the food of gray whales) is eaten during the 5 months of feeding.
You may probably assume an equal loss during migration, with probably more
of a loss for a female that calves and is nursing. Small lactacting female
gray whales require about 3.2 metric tons of lipids, out of an estimate
reserve of 4.4 metric tons, for feeding their young and for their own
maintenance costs through the end of the winter lagoon season. Small adults
must resume feeding during their northward migration, whereas whales
unburdened with the costs of lactation, as well as older, pregnant females,
have the necessary lipid reserves to complete the north migration without

2. Closest living terrestrial relatives of all whales and dolphins are cows
and pigs (artiodactyls).

3. Gray whales are not found worldwide. Gray whales are found only in the
North Pacific Ocean and adjacent seas. They are restricted to shallow
continental shelf waters. They are the most coastal of all great whales.
Gray whale stocks which previously occurred in the North Atlantic were wiped
out by whalers in the 17th or 18th century.

4. Gray whales are in their own family. There are three total families of
baleen whales (balaenids - bowhead and right whales; balaenopterids -
rorquals, like humpbacks, blues, etc.); and the gray whale.

5. I would recommend checking WhaleNet and the links provided there. I did a
quick search with Yahoo and found a new things. Also worth doing is a search
via <> and also checking the web page for the National
Marine Fisheries Service, which is responsible for protection of gray

Good luck with the gray whale info search!
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