Beluga

Category: Sea Life

The beluga is a strikingly white whale that lives in the cold waters of the Arctic. It shares some of its habitat with the only other member of the family Mondontidae, the narwhal.

Beluga

Beluga

Scientific & Common Names

Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Chordata

Class - Mammalia

Order - Artiodactyla

Infraorder - Cetacea

Family - Monodontidae

Genus - Delphinapterus

Species - D. leucas

Common Names – Beluga Whale, White Whale, Melonhead, Sea Canar

Characteristics

Belugas are completely white whales. They lack dorsal fins, like the narwhal, and have a thick layer of blubber to keep them warm in the Arctic seas. Their heads are bulbous and rounded due to an organ known as a melon that helps them with echolocation, a process that involves using sonar to navigate. This organ can change shape and helps the beluga produce a wide range of underwater sounds. They can grow up to 18 feet and weight as much as 3,500 lbs.

Breeding

Belugas mate during the first half of the year, and gestation can last a little over 12 months. Females give birth after traveling to warmer waters near the coast. The young whales are dark grey in coloration and will lighten as they grow until they reach the stark white of adults. Females produce calves every three years, and calves depend on their mother for the first two years of life.

Behavior

As social creatures, belugas often travel in groups. While these groups typically contain around a dozen whales, certain conditions can cause whales to congregate in the thousands. Belugas can dive over 2,000 feet below the ocean's surface in search of food, which consists of fish, squids, crustaceans and plankton. They are curious creatures who often engage in "spyhopping", during which they poke their head out of the water to have a look around.

History

As social creatures, belugas often travel in groups. While these groups typically contain around a dozen whales, certain conditions can cause whales to congregate in the thousands. Belugas can dive over 2,000 feet below the ocean's surface in search of food, which consists of fish, squids, crustaceans and plankton. They are curious creatures who often engage in "spyhopping", during which they poke their head out of the water to have a look around.

Present status

These whales are listed as "Near Threatened" and it's believed the total population numbers in the 150,000 range. They are preyed upon by killer whales and polar bears, but humans are the biggest threat to their continued existence. Commercial whaling has severely reduced the beluga's numbers, and pollution from chemicals and heavy metals is a serious cause for concern.

References

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beluga_whale
  2. Princeton Field Guides: Whales, Dolphins and Other Marine Mammals; Shirihai & Jarrett; 2016
  3. Guide to Marine Mammals of the World; Reeves, Stewart, Clapham & Powell; 2008