Subject: Re: Blubber

Dr. Cathy Schaeff (
Thu, 09 Oct 1997 09:15:45 +0000

Don Blancher wrote:
> Do whales convert their blubber to oil for energy. in other words, do
> artic whales store more of their energy in fat or oil?  I know this is a
> confusing question, but my biology teacher is the one who wants to know!
> I can't find anything that states that artic whales store more food as
> oil than fat.  Please help!
> Thank you.
> Adam Blancher


A good question but one that I am having difficulties answering. Most of
the information I have found relates to 'fat' or blubber, I have not
found any references to oil in whales; e.g.: The amount of blubber on
whales varies between species (bowheads and right whales probably have
the thickest; in bowheads it may be as thick as 50 cm) and varies also
with season (thin at the beginning of summer and fat at the end). Fat is
laid down in other regions of the body in addition to the blubber
(organs, eg liver, tissue eg muscle, and in bones) and so fat (lipids)
may account for as much as
50% of total body! [sounds like 'fat' in other areas may be in the form
of oil but I haven't found any details.]

 Whales do was their fat for more than isulation.  For example, they
metabolize fat to produce fresh water; this is the only source whales
have since they don't drink sea water. Also, since many females don't
feed during the initial stages of lactation, fat reserves are used
during this time and probably throughout lactation.

I'll keep looking.

Cathy Schaeff

Dr. Cathy Schaeff
Biology Department 
American University
4400 Mass. Ave. N.W. 
Washington D.C. 20016-8007
(202) 885-2175 (phone)
(202) 885-2182 (fax) (email)