Blue Whales

From: Pieter Arend Folkens (animalbytes@earthlink.net)
Date: Tue Feb 13 2001 - 01:31:01 EST


>I am doing a term paper on Blue Whales for 7th grade core. I need to
>interview an expert. Would you have time to answer a few questions?
>
>1. What happens to you if you kill a blue whale by accident?

You'll have a big mess on your hands. It would be quite difficult to
accidentally kill a blue whale because they are so large. The main cause of
accidental blue whale deaths is from collisions with ships. This happens
when a sleeping whale just below the surface is not seen by people on the
bridge of large ships. An investigation is usually conducted, but the
ship's pilot is usually not charged or fined.

>2. What does the blue whale eat besides krill?

A selection of other smallish invertebrates, including pelagic red crabs,
and to a lesser extent copepods, squid, and an occasional small schooling
fish.

>3. What are some of the best places to spot blue whales and why?

Any where there is the appropriate food supply. The appearance of the food
is seasonal, and the blues travel great distances looking for and waiting
for the food to appear (when upwelling occurs). Good places to see blues
are (at least this is where I have seen them):
off Punta Tosca (Magdalena Bay, Baja)
Aqua Verde and other places in the southwestern Sea of Cortez
the Southern California Bight (Channel Islands to the Coronados)
Monterey Bay over the canyon
Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank off Northern California
Northern Gulf of Alaska
Southern Coast of Madagascar (and probably Antongil Bay)
Trinco coast of Sri Landa

(Other places to see them where I haven't been)
Costa Rica Dome
Antarctic Convergence
Saint Lawrence Sea Way (Canada)

>4. How did the blue whale get its name?

The skin color has a steel bluish tone.

>5. How long does the blue whale live and how old was the oldest?

The jury is still out on how to precisely age a blue whale. Some thoughts
are counting wax rings in the ear plug and counting growth evidence on the
typmanic bulla. It probably ranges between 35 and 90 years. My guess would
be 60 to 80 years. It is interesting to note that another baleen whale, the
bowhead, may live 200 years.

>6. Where are the most studies on blue whales going on?

Rich Sears has a couple of study areas in the St. Lawrence Seaway and off
Lareto in eastern Baja (southwestern Sea of Cortez).

Bruce Mate's tagging studies involves blue whales from Southern California
to Oregon.

John Calambokidis studies blues at the Coasta Rican Dome, Gulf of the
Farallones, and Cordell bank.

Don Croll and others study blues in Monterey Bay.

>7. What are the most common causes of the death for a blue whale?

Up until the late 1960s, whaling. Now it is a combination of old age,
starvation, and killer whale attacks.

>8. What are the main reasons the blue whale is endangered?

During the 20th century commercial whaling period, blue whale stocks world
wide were reduced to less than 10% of the original stock population. The
species has not yet recovered from that carnage.

>9. Are there any blue whales in captivity? If any, where?

No. There never has been, as they are much too large.

>10. Do you think blue whales will make a recovery and be removed from
>the endangered list? Why?

Not in the near future. When the population dropped, other species moved
into their ecological nich. In Antarctica it appears that minke whales
exploited much of the nich once occupied by blue. Now competition for the
resource inhibits the blue's recovery. Reports from researchers in the
North Pacific indicate that blues appear to be quite thin, suggesting
diminished food resources. If the environment cannot support many blues,
they will not have many calves and the population cannot recover.

I hope this does it.

Cheers,

Pieter Folkens

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