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BLUE WHALE

STATUS:  
Endangered

DESCRIPTION:  
The blue whale is the largest
animal ever to inhabit the Earth.
This gentle giant has grayish- blue
skin with light spots. It has about
300 to 400 baleen plates instead
of teeth which it uses to strain
food from the ocean water. 

SIZE:  
Measuring 70 to 80 feet in length
(the longest recorded length was
106 feet), blue whales can weigh
as much as 90 to 150 tons. The
female is larger than the male. 

POPULATION:  
Estimated between 1,300 to 2,000,
the population of blue whales is dangerously low. 

LIFESPAN: 
The lifespan of a blue whale is estimated to be 80 years. 

HABITAT: 
Blue whales are found throughout the world's oceans. 

RANGE:  
Blue whales generally spend winters in temperate and subtropical zones, migrating toward the polar regions in spring and summer. 

FOOD:  
A blue whale can eat up to 7,715 pounds of krill (small shrimp-like organisms) per day! 

BEHAVIOR:  
Blue whales swim 14 miles per hour (with bursts as fast as 30 mph) and feed at depths of less than 330 feet (but can dive as deep as 1,640 feet). Dives last from 10 to 20 minutes. Usually they travel alone or in small groups of two to four, although off the coast of California some groups as large as 60 have been seen. 

OFFSPRING:  
Sexual maturity is reached between 5 to 10 years. Females give birth every two to three years to one calf. Gestation lasts 10 to 12 months and the average calf is 23 feet long and weighs 4,440 pounds at birth. A calf is fed by its mother for seven to eight months. 

HISTORY:  
Blue whales once were considered too difficult to hunt because of their speed and tremendous size. However, with the introduction of factory ships and the harpoon gun in the 1920s, blue whales were hunted intensively. By the 1960s they were nearly extinct. 

THREATS:  
Blue whales face threats from entanglement in fishing nets, pollution, and illegal whaling. 

PROTECTION:  
*CITES Appendix 1, Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act 

*Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, an international treaty with more than 144 member countries. Appendix I listed species cannot be traded commercially. Appendix II listed species can be traded commercially only if trade does not harm their survival.

GRAY WHALE

STATUS:  
The western Pacific population of gray whales is listed as threatened. The California population was recently delisted (is no longer threatened).
 
DESCRIPTION:  
The gray whale ranges from slate gray to black with many white spots (usually patches of barnacles) and skin blotches (usually "whale lice" which are yellowish-white crustaceans). A baleen (toothless) whale, it has a long rigid snout and a double blow-hole. The gray whale does not have a dorsal fin but does have a low hump on its back and a series of small knobs or "knuckles" running down to the flukes. 

SIZE:  
A female gray whale may reach a length of 40 to 50 feet and weigh up to 16 tons. Males are slightly smaller. 

POPULATION:  
After years of intensive whaling, the gray whale population numbered only a few hundred, but today their population has bounced back to approximately 21,000. 

RANGE: 
Gray whales migrate along the coast of North America from California to the Arctic or from coastal Korea to Siberia to spend the summer in arctic regions. For the winter, they return to warmer waters. This 4,000- mile annual migration is the longest made by any mammal. 

HABITAT:  
Gray whales prefer shallow waters and are often found within a mile and a half of shore in coastal waters and breeding lagoons. 

FOOD:  
Gray whales feed on bottom-dwelling organisms such as amphipods (small crustaceans), mollusks, and worms. They dive to the bottom, turn on their sides, and swim along the ocean floor scooping up sand and food, then strain the sand and water (through baleen filters), leaving the food inside. 

BEHAVIOUR:  
Gray whales often seem to play in the surf and shallow waters and actually appear to surf the waves occasionally. They also sometimes leap completely out of the water, or spyhop, lifting their heads vertically out of the water to observe their surroundings. 

OFFSPRING:  
Females bear one calf every two years after a gestation period of 13 months. Calves nurse for seven months. 

THREATS:  
Pollution and the disturbance of calving lagoons by humans are the main threats to the gray whale. 

PROTECTION:  
*CITES, Appendix I, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Endangered Species Act 

HUMPBACK WHALE

STATUS:  
Endangered
 
DESCRIPTION:  
The humpback whale is black or gray with a white, grooved underbelly. Megaptera means 'giant wings' and refers to the humpback’s large front flippers, which can reach a length of 15 feet. 

SIZE:  
Humpback whales measure 35 to 48 feet long and weigh up to 65 tons. The female is larger than the male. 

POPULATION:  
In the 1870s humpback whales numbered an estimated 125,000, but early in the 20th century whaling drastically reduced the population. Today humbacks number approximately 5,000 to 7,500. 

LIFESPAN: 
The humpback whale is capable of living up to 95 years. 

HABITAT: 
Humpbacks are found in all the world's oceans. 

RANGE:  
Humpback whales migrate annually from the tropics to polar regions. 

FOOD:  
Humpbacks sometimes engage in social hunting in which several whales encircle a school (group) of fish and blow bubbles that form a 'net' around the fish, then move in with their mouths open to devour their prey. Their favorite foods include krill (shrimp-like crustaceans) and small schooling fish such as herring and mackerel. A humpback consumes between 2,000 and 9,000 pounds of fish and krill a day. 

BEHAVIOR:  
The 'songs' of humpback whales are complex vocalizations made only by the males. Humpbacks are well known for hurling their massive bodies out of the water in magnificent displays called breaching. Scientists are unsure why humpbacks breach, but believe it may be related to courtship or play activity. 

OFFSPRING:  
Humpback whales mate during winter migration to warmer waters. Eleven to 12 months later the female gives birth to a single calf, weighing about two tons and measuring up to 13 feet long. 

HISTORY:  
Humpback whales were considered too difficult to hunt during the early whaling days because of their speed and tremendous size. However, with the introduction of factory ships and the harpoon gun in the 1920's, the humpback whales were hunted intensively. By the 1960's they were nearly extinct. 

THREATS:  
Whales suffer from illegal whaling, entanglement in fishing nets and death from pollution. 

PROTECTION:  
*CITES, Appendix I, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Endangered Species Act 

*Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, an international treaty with more than 144 member countries. Appendix I listed species cannot be traded commercially. Appendix II listed species can be traded commercially only if trade does not harm their survival. 

SPERM WHALE

STATUS:  
Endangered. 

DESCRIPTION:  
The sperm whale is the largest toothed mammal in the world. Males are significantly larger than females. They are dark blue-gray to black in color. Males tend to pale as they age. Sperm whales have a gigantic, square-shaped head with an slender lower jaw. Their head makes up one-third of the body length. They do not have a dorsal fin. The head houses a large spermaceti organ filled with spermaceti oil. This oil turns from liquid to solid as the water turns colder. Because a solid is generally heavier than a liquid, this "weight" in the whales' head allows it to dive deep to find food. Sperm whales can dive up to 4,000 feet. 

SIZE:  
Males can reach 66 feet in length, though most are about 50 feet in length. Females are rarely longer than 40 feet in length. Male sperm whales weigh between 77,000 and 110,000 pounds; females weigh only one-third as much as males.

POPULATION:  
There are an estimated 500,000 sperm whales in the world. 

LIFESPAN: 
Sperm whales can live up to 77 years. 

RANGE: 
Sperm whales are found in all the oceans of the world, but concentrate in areas of plentiful food such as the coast of South America, the coast of Africa, the north Atlantic sea, the Arabian sea, the western north Pacific and near the equator. 

HABITAT:  
Throughout the world’s oceans.

FOOD:  
Giant squid is the sperm whale’s favorite food. They also eat schooling fish, seals and sharks. Sperm whales consume approximately one ton of food each day.

BEHAVIOR:  
Sperm whales are found in mixed groups of 20 to 40 individuals including adult females, calves and juveniles. After weaned from their mother, juveniles leave their group to form juvenile schools. Females will return to a mixed group before reaching maturity while males form bachelor groups or become solitary. Some individuals or groups move seasonally, but sperm whales do not migrate over large distances as some other whale species do. 

OFFSPRING:  
Sperm whales mate in the spring and have calves in the fall. A single calf is born after a 14 to 19 month gestation. Newborn calves weigh about 2,000 pounds and are about 13 feet in length. 

THREATS:  
In the past, sperm whales were hunted for their ambergris, a waxy oil substance. This oil was used for lighting fuel. Spermaceti oil was also used to make candles and lubricant. 

PROTECTION:  
*CITES, Appendix I, Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act.

*Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, an international treaty with more than 144 member countries. Appendix I listed species cannot be traded commercially. Appendix II listed species can be traded commercially only if it does not harm their survival.
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