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    GIANT LIVESChapter One


    Balaenoptera musculusBLUE WHALE

    The Blue Whale is the largest animal that has ever lived on planet Earth

    Only in the vastness of the ocean could there live the largest creature on earth. The blue whale. Before commercial whaling 300,00 blue whales cruised the oceans. Today less than 10,000 remain. We know almost nothing of their lives and for years assumed that like the other great whales they migrated to cold rich seas to feed.

    Blue whales are the largest animals ever to have lived, bigger even than the largest of the dinosaurs. These jumbo-jet-sized giants inhabit the open ocean, where they are found most frequently along the continental shelf edges and near polar ice. They are so big that a blue whales blood vessels are wide enough for a human to swim through. A single calf is produced every two to three years, and from birth each calf consumes up to 50 gallons of milk every single day, leading to a colossal weight gain

    of 90 kilograms per day in its first year of life. Blue whales are not easy to approach like southern right whales and not friendly like humpback whales. They are elusive and perfectly streamlined blues are one of the fastest ocean giants powering along at over 30 miles an hour. The largest creature in the ocean feeds almost exclusively on one of the smallest, krill. A crustacean just a few inches long Krill are normally found in cold polar seas.

    Recently Scientists have discovered that along the Sri Lanken coastline unusual condiitions allow kirll to thrive in tropical waters. The upwelling of cold nutrient-rich water is unusual for the tropics but appears to contain the perfect food for blue whales. The Indian Ocean blue whales are unique as they live there all year round.


    The blue whales feed by diving deep down and find dense patches of krill and lunge-feed through them. They dive to 600 feet below where the krill are hiding in the gloom. The whale then powers up through the swarm gulping its own body weight of water into its ballooning throat It then strains out the nutritious krill through its fine mesh of baleen. Each lunge requires huge effort but if you have a mouth as big as a blue whales you can catch so much food that the whole process becomes extraordinarily efficient.

    Their size is the secret of their success. Pumped up on tonnes of krill blue whales can grow as long as a jetliner weighing almost 200 tonnes twice the size of the largest dinosaur. Worryingly the blues giant size and its giant appetite are now putting it at risk. We know that climate change is occurring and that in places like Antarctica the temperatures have sky-rocketed. We also know that krill has started to decrease and when you dont have enough food blue whales are going to have trouble surviving

    So as climate change happens as krill starts to be depleted blue-whale survival could be in jeopardy. Blue whales are still endangered but they are recovering slowly

    For their recovery to continue its not just the whales themselves that will need protection. For their recovery to continue its not just the whales themselves that will need protection but the seas and the other creatures they depend on. We may have missed the chance to live with the great dinosaurs of the past but we do have the good fortune to be sharing our time with the largest creatures that ever lived these magnificent ocean giants

    Length - 32 mWieght - 200 Tons (Max.) Type - BaleenLIfe span - 80~90 yearsFood - Krill

    Blue whale



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    A southern right whales head measures one third of its total length. It is one of the easiest whales to identify as the enormous head is also covered in white-coloured outgrowths of tough skin. These callosities form a unique pattern on each whale, like fingerprints in humans. Courtship and mating is both tender and graceful, without any animosity between males mating with the same female. Females calve once every three years, giving birth to a weighty 1,500kg calf. Despite their great size, the young are brought up on a diet of high-fat milk and remain in shallow waters, safe from the likes of orcas and great white sharks. Southern right whales are only found in the oceans of the southern hemisphere. They inhabit waters close to Antarctica during the summer and migrate northwards to coastal areas in winter.

    Male southern right whales have the largest sexual organs of any animal. Their testicles can weigh up to one tonne and their penises can measure over 2.5m. Scientists have linked these proportions to increased sperm competition in the species in which mating is described as an orgy

    Eubalaena australisSOUTHERN RIGHTWALES



    Within the Arctic Circle lives a whale three times the size of a grey whale, Its a bowhead whale named after its enormous curved upper jaw. Its grown to massive size for even more extraordinary reasons as it stays in the Arctic all year round it doesnt need to be big to survive lengthy migrations and protected by the maze of shifting pack ice it has less to fear from killer whales. So why is this whale so big?

    In eastern Greenland a scientific teams are attempting to unlock the secrets of this little-known giant. In the last two centuries bowheads were almost wiped out by commercial whalers and are notoriously wary of humans and are remarkably alert to danger. During the winter bowheads are impossible to track but in spring they announce their presence with song. Scientists think that these are mating calls and that the bowheads may gather

    Balaena mysticetusBOWHEAD WHALE

    These whales are the fattest animals on the planet

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    to breed. Bowheads are the masters of concealment able to hold their breath for up to an hour and a half

    The bowheads survive this cold through being a giant. The bigger and rounder the body the better it is at retaining heat. Wrapped in 50 tonnes of insulating blubber these whales are the fattest animals on the planet. Half their entire body weight is fat!

    The bowhead whale is second only in size to the mighty blue whale. Its enormous bow-shaped mouth, the largest mouth of any animal, contains a baleen measuring three metres. The 300 plates filter out the tiny crustaceans from the water which make up its diet. The bowhead whale in-habits cold Arctic waters and so needs the best insulation. Its blubber is the thickest found on any animal at half a metre. Female bowheads are perhaps the most flirtatious ocean mammal, constantly teasing the males into a frenzy.


    Length - 20 mWieght - 100 Tons (Max.) Type - BaleenLIfe span - 150~210 yearsFood - Copepods


    Eschrichtius robustusGREY WHALE

    Grey whales undertake the longest annual migration of any known mammal, along the coastlines between their summer feeding and winter breeding grounds. Belonging to the baleen whale group, they have plates for filtering marine worms and crustaceans from the ocean floor. Grey whales are split into two separate populations, the eastern North Pacific (American) and the critically endangered western North Pacific (Asian) population. They are the only species in their genus, which in turn, is the only genus in the family.Grey whales undertake the longest annual migration of any known mammal, travelling from warm breeding grounds at the equator to their summer feeding grounds in the Arctic. Researchers have suggested that these epic journeys could also be driven by the threat of predation from killer whales. Gray whales are often covered with parasites and other organisms that make their snouts and backs look like a crusty ocean rock.The whale uses its snout to forage by dislodging tiny creatures from the seafloor. It then filters these morsels with its baleena comblike strainer of plates in the upper jaw. A piece of gray whale baleen, also called whalebone,

    Length - 15 mWieght - 40 Tons (Max.) Type - BaleenLIfe span - 50~60 yearsFood - Amphipods

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    Grey whales undertake the longest annual migration of any mammal

    is about 18 inches (46 centimeters) long and has a consistency much like a fingernail. Whalebone was once used to make ladies corsets and umbrella ribs.

    The gray whale is one of the animal kingdoms great migrators. Traveling in groups called pods, some of these giants swim 12,430 miles (20,000 kilometers) round-trip from their summer home in Alaskan waters to the warmer waters off the Mexican coast. The whales winter and breed in the shallow southern waters and balmier climate. Other gray whales live in the seas near Korea.

    Like all whales, gray whales surface to breathe, so migrating groups are often spotted from North Americas west coast. These whales were once the target of extensive hunting, and by early in the 20th century they were in serious danger of extinction.


  • 12 12GIANT LIVES