Beluga Whale

Beluga Whale

Beluga whales are only found in the arctic and sub-arctic oceans. They are one of just 2 species in their family Monodontidae, and are unique in their genus of Delphinapterus. It is also known as the white whale, the sea canary and the Melon-head (though the melon-headed dolphin is a species of its own, so this name may cause some confusion.

Adaptions it has for the Arctic, include the fact that it is white in colour, allowing it to blend into the white world more effectively, and the fact it has no dorsal fin, which allows it to swim very close to the ice sheet above.

Growing up to 5.5m in length and up to 1600kg they are a pretty large dolphin. Generally, living in groups of around 10, in the summer, they group together in their hundreds or thousands.

The worlds population is thought to be around 200,000, Some populations move from the edge of the ice cap, into rivers in warmer areas, while others stay around the ice caps year round. Groups of people in both USA and Russia have hunted them for many centuries.

Hunting is not controlled, and as such the drop in population could happen quite fast. Russia and Greenland have killed enough to drop their local population significantly, though thankfully not Alaska or Canada.

They do also have their natural predators in both the killer whale and the Polar bear.

They are the most commonly kept cetaceans in the world, with around 300 in captivity. Japan, USA, Ukraine, Canada, China and Russia as well as a few more.

There are 22 populations around the world, these vary from 39,000 down to as little as 500. The total population is around 200,000. While this number is large, the number hunted is definitely not sustainable. There is also no care to distinguish the different populations, which suggests that sub-populations could be pushed to extinction without any care.

Below, you will find a clip from a bbc documentary which features this species. Below this, is a list of any mentions that the beluga whale has had on this site. Below this, I will list any opportunities to see this species in the wild. Click on list your wild place, to list yours. It takes just a few minutes, and costs nothing – we only charge a commission on any business we send your way.

Fin Whale

Fin Whale

The fin whale which is also known as finback whale or common rorqual and formerly known as herring whale or razorback whale, is the second longest species of whale, with the largest species growing to a reported 27m, and weighing a maximum recorded weight of 74 tonnes, and a maximum estimated weight of 114 tonnes.

It is a fast swimmer, able to outpace the fastest steamships.

There are 2 recognized subspecies, in the northern and southern hemisphere. Around 725,000 southern fin whales were taken during whaling, and there are around 38,000 that roam the oceans as of 1997. Across the world around 112,000 roam the oceans.

Although the genetic differences between the fin whale and the blue whale are considered similar to that of humans and gorillas (they are thought to have been split for 3.5 million years) and hybrids have been recorded from time to time.

Average dives are around 6 minutes, with the longest dives recorded being around 17 minutes.

Found around the world, though not found close to the polar ice caps at either end of the globe. They appear to be clearly migratory, but it has not been possible to fully work out what this migration pattern might be.

 

 

Bowhead whale

Bowhead whale

Also known as Greenland right whale, Arctic whale, steeple-top, and polar whale, they are closely related to the right whales, the bowhead whale looks quite different. It is in a different genus to the other right whales (so is a more distant relation.

The only whale that is endemic to the Arctic and sub-arctic, its mouth is a third of the size of the body. They are incredible long lived often living to 200 years old. They have incredibly thick skulls, which allows them to use their heads to break through the arctic ice.

Unfortunately, they were an early target of whalers, and so in 1966 hunting of them was banned. They have recovered to the point where out of the 5 subpopulations, 3 are endangered, one is vulnerable and the last one currently classed as low risk. Another unfortunate effect of whaling, was to put an end to the summer habits of the bowhead whale – before whaling, it appears that different whale populations would cross seas during the summer, and interbreed.

  1. The Western Arctic stock in the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas estimated at 12,500 (though with 95% confidence range 8000-19500         
  2. The Hudson Bay and Foxe Basin stock estimated at 345 with a high confidence
  3. the Baffin Bay and Davis Strait stock which is estimated at over 1000 individuals
  4. the Sea of Okhotsk stock contains only 100-200
  5.  The Svalbard-Barents Sea stock was hunted to near extinction. As such while I cannot find a number, it is unlikely to have a large population

Polar bears appear to be surviving despite the lack of sea ice, should we take this as a positive sign?

A group of polar bears are surviving in south-east Greenland are surviving despite there not being sea ice for most of the year.

A new Polar bear population genetically isolated from other Polar bears has been identified in South East Greenland
Continue reading “Polar bears appear to be surviving despite the lack of sea ice, should we take this as a positive sign?”
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