The biggest whale in the world is a blue whale known with the scientific name Balaenoptera musculus. It has a confirmed size of 98 feet (29.9 meters) in length and 178 tons in body weight. This means the biggest whale in the world is about the length of one Boeing 737 plane, and as heavy as 4 Boeing 737s.
Female blue whales are even bigger than males because they eat more to sustain their bodies for breeding and to produce about 50 gallons (200 liters) of milk a day for their calves.
There are claims about the existence of giant blue whales in the Antarctic region, which are believed to be over 108 ft (33 m) long in size. However, none of those claims are proven with confirmed measurements.
In fact, a precise scientific study suggests that the bone structure of blue whales does not allow them to grow longer than 108 ft (33 meters).
Overall measurements make the blue whales not only the biggest among the whale species but the biggest animal that has ever existed on this planet.
1. What is bigger than a blue whale?
Do not celebrate the size of a blue whale yet. Archeologists suggest that there may have been other giant that could have beaten the blue whales in a size competition.
The other giant is none other than ichthyosaur, a lizardfish. Unfortunately, we can’t compare these giants now since Ichthyosaurs are no longer exist on this planet.
If we want to see them in a real-life, we have to make a time travel back to 200 million years, deep into the Mesozoic era.
2. Blue whales are also the biggest migrating animals on this planet.
They swim thousands of miles every year in search of food and a convenient place to breed. They stock up their food reserves in the colder waters to replenish their energy for the migration.
When it’s time to mate or deliver its offspring, a blue whale migrates to warmer waters of equatorial regions. Warm waters are convenient for them to raise their newborn calves.
3. How many blue whales are there?
The numbers of blue whales are not as big as they are. Currently, world oceans contain only about 15,000 blue whales, and close to 2000 of them living in the coastal waters of California.
Due to its valuable oil content, humans engaged in whaling business and killed most of their populations back in history.
Humans hunted over 300,000 blue whales in the 20th century alone. Unfortunately, their number came down to only 1000 individuals during the 1920s.
Thanks to the limitations imposed by the International Whaling Commission in 1966, blue whales were labeled as protected species and made illegal to hunt.
4. Where do blue whales live?
Since blue whales are always on the move, their habitat spreads to all of the world’s oceans. They can be found in the Antarctic Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and the Indian Ocean.
Mostly, blue whales hunt in the cold waters. It is because blue whales survive on krill and those tiny marine creatures are abundant in cold regions.
5. How much krill does a blue whale eat?
On average, an adult blue whale eats about 8,000 pounds of krill (3,600 kg) or 40 million krill a day to maintain their huge body with energy.
Now, you may wonder how can a blue whale catch that volume of krill a day. The fact is a blue whale does not catch them one by one. They just swim towards swarms of krill and open their mouth. As a result, they swallow large volumes of krill with the seawater.
When they close their mouth, seawater escapes but the krill remains inside the whale thanks to their natural filter called “Baleen”.
6. How big is a baby blue whale?
A baby blue whale is not as tiny as you may think. When born, blue whale calf is about 3 tons in weight. And, its lengths is somewhere around 23 feet (7 meters). The most surprising part is that a blue whale calf can gain 200 lbs. (90 kg.) a day.
Baby blue whales bond with their mothers and mostly swim on their side. Since they are mammals, they need their mother’s milk until they are ready to hunt on their own.
7. Did you know that blue whales are record-breakers?
Obviously, the biggest animal on the planet title is already in the hands of blue whales. It will not go anywhere any time soon.
Also, Guinness Book of World Records listed them in the following categories: The heaviest tongue of any animal – 8,800 lbs. (3 tons), the largest lung with a capacity of 1,320 gallons (500 liters), and the largest heart, about the size of VW Beetle car – 1500 lbs. (680 kg.), and the slowest heart, which beats only 4 to 8 times per minute.
The list can go on and on because they have the largest body, and logically other organs and functions should be the largest as well.
8. Is a blue whale a fish?
A blue whale is not a fish, it is a warm-blooded mammal that breathes oxygen outside the water. And they do not lay eggs as fish does, but gives birth to a calf and feeds them with their milk.
Blue whales can keep their breath between 20-90 minutes underwater. Mostly, it depends on the depth they swim to. During deep dives, they can hold their breath about 90 minutes. But on average, blue whales breathe in every 20-30 minutes.
Blue whales can keep their breath more than humans can for obvious reasons. Firstly, they have been living in the oceans for millions of years and they adapted to marine conditions.
Secondly, they have large lungs that can breathe 90% of the oxygen they inhale, whereas humans can breathe only 15% oxygen they inhale.
9. Blue whales are relatives of one of the heaviest land mammals.
Scientists suggest that giant hippopotamuses shared the same ancestors with blue whales about 54 million years ago.
During that period, whales did not look like today’s whales. They evolved from a four-legged mammal called Pakicetus.
Pakicetus had a long tail, short-haired skin, and roamed around the coastal areas, occasionally got into the water, and swam as bears and dogs do.
After the first discovery of Pakicetus skeleton in Pakistan in the 1980s, scientists started studying its bone remnants and found that some bones match that of whales and even-toed hoofed mammals.
A real breakthrough happened when scientists did DNA testing on whales and other even-toed hoofed mammals. The results indicated that the DNA sequence of whales only matches one other mammal and that is a hippopotamus.
10. Blue whales swim fast and live long.
Whale hunting was popular back in the days, but blue whales were not the easy target because of their size and speed. They can move with a speed up to 14 miles per hour (22.5 km/h) on average. When they feel the urge, they can accelerate that speed up to 30 miles per hour (48 km/h) for a short period.
Usually, blue whales dive no more than 330 feet (100 m) but they are capable of diving up to 1,640 miles (500 m). Before the long dives, blue whales come to the surface and fill up their lungs with enough oxygen.
Blue whales live 80-90 years on average although it is not unusual to find 100-year-old blue whales. However, they are not the longest living whales. For instance, bowhead whales live close to 200 years.
You may also read my previous post about blue whales here.