20 Interesting Facts About Beluga Whales

  1. The beluga whale is a species of toothed whales, and the nearest relative of narwhals. These two whales are the only members of the family Monodontidae.
  2. Beluga is a mid-sized whale. It can grow to the size of 5.5 m (18 ft) and attain a weight of 1,600 kg (3,530 lb).
  3. Beluga whales can swim forward as well as backward direction. The deepest recorded dive of a trained beluga whale is up to 647 m (2,123 ft.). The thick blubber accounts for 40% of the beluga’s total weight. (Source)
  4. Beluga whales are the second most abundant cetaceans present in captivity worldwide. There are 227 belugas in captivity around the world.
  5. An important feature distinguishing beluga whales from other whales is their white color. They are the only whales with a body of pure white color.
  6. The white color of beluga whales provides them the advantage of camouflage in the same color of snow and icy waters of the Arctic. The calves are grey as they live in warm water after their birth.
  7. Beluga whale mainly lives in the Arctic Ocean. They are one of the only three species of whales (along with narwhals and bowhead whales) that inhabit the Arctic Ocean throughout the year. (Source)
    Map detailing range of Beluga whale in Arctic
    Beluga whale inhibits Arctic ocean permanently

  8. Another unique feature of beluga whales is their flexible necks. Unlike other whales, they can move their heads separately from their bodies. 
  9. Belugas can also make various kinds of voices thanks to their flexible head. In the absence of vocal cords, belugas use their nasal sacs to produce sounds like whistles, clicks, chirps, squeaks, etc. These voices help them to find food through echolocation. These beautiful voices earned them the name “canaries of the sea.” (Source)
  10. Beluga whales can learn the speech of other animals in their surroundings. A beluga whale living in the pond of dolphins has been found to copy dolphins’ whistles and clicks. (Source)
  11. At least one beluga whale has been found to mimic a human voice just by listening. Experts have recorded the sound of this captive beluga whale imitating human speech. (Source)
  12. The main diet of beluga contains several types of fish present in their location. These include Pacific salmon, Arctic cod, Greenland halibut, rose fish, etc. They also consume shrimp, crabs, squid, octopus, and many other deep-sea invertebrates.
  13. The dorsal fin causes heat loss. Due to this reason, beluga whales lack dorsal fins like other arctic whales.
  14. Beluga whales give birth to young ones every three years on average. The gestation period is between 14 to 16 months. The newborn whale can be up to 1.5 meters in length and weigh between 53 and 73 kg. (Source)
  15. The hearing range of beluga whales is 1.2 to 120 kHz. Comparatively, humans can hear sounds between 0.02 and 20 kHz. The depth of the ocean doesn’t change hearing sensitivity in beluga whales.
  16. In 2009, a captive beluga whale rescued a diver from drowning in an aquarium in China. The whale rescued the trainer by placing her leg in its mouth. (Source)  
  17. In 2018, the world’s first sanctuary was established for beluga whales in a bay in Iceland. The first residents of this open water sanctuary were two female beluga whales that previously remained in a Chinese aquarium for years. (Source)
  18. Killer whales and polar bears are the main predators of beluga whales. Beluga whales also face other natural and man-made threats. These include pollution, commercial fisheries, disease, underwater noise, and oil & gas exploration, among others.
  19. Beluga whales are very friendly, playful, and curious both in captivity and in the wild. They like to swim alongside boats and play with humans. (Source)
  20. Belugas are social animals that usually live in small groups known as pods. They communicate with other group members through different voices.

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