The Falkland Islands and South Atlantic
BLUE WHALE Balaenoptera musculus

BLUE WHALE Balaenoptera musculus

Blue whales belong to the family Balaenopteridae or 'Rorqual' (old Norse meaning 'grooved whale') whales, characterised by their sleek body form and pleated throat grooves that expand when the whales feed allowing them to take massive gulps of food and water. Their ventral pleats 55-68 extend down the belly to the umbilicus. The massive body is a mottled blue grey, lighter underside. The head is flat and U shaped with a splashguard for the two large blowholes. The blow is tall and columnar, dense and up to 9m high. The dorsal fin is very small and set far back. The flukes are triangular, often raised to dive.

Blue whales are the largest animals to live on the planet. They have been recorded to 33.3m in length. Females are larger than males. They weigh 80-150 tons. A new born calf will be 6-7m long and will weigh 2.5-4 tons. They very likely live for up to 70 years.

Wide-ranging, the Blue whales are in all oceans. They go as far as 60°S in Antarctica to the ice edge. They usually travel alone or in pairs following well -known migratory routes, staying south in summer and moving north for winter. They are very rarely sighted off the Falkland Islands (I Strange 1992) although it is said they used to be regularly seen as they migrated back and forth to summer feeding grounds.

Larger groups may congregate at feeding grounds. Diet in polar waters is zooplankton where 3-8 tonnes are consumed daily by gulp feeding. They tend to be relatively shallow feeders, sometimes surface-feeding.

Blue whales were hunted extensively in the Southern hemisphere from around 1900, when they were the main-stay of the whaling industry, continuing off South Georgia until 1936 until, after 39,000 had been caught, there were no more. Antarctica only has perhaps hundreds up to a thousand Blue whales now.

In the Falklands the Blue whale is classed as a 'regular' cetacean.Their IUCN Conservation status is 'endangered'. The Falkland Islands Marine Mammals Ordinance 1992 protects all marine mammals in all waters from the coast to the edge of the economic exclusion zone.





Sources include: Sea Mammals of the World-Randall R. Reeves, Brent S. Steware, Phillip J Clapham, James A Powell,Falkland Islands State of the Environment Report 2008 Otley H, Munro G, Clausen A, Ingham B. Wikipedia, Falklands Conservation, A Complete Guide to Antarctic Wildlife- Hadoram Shirihai, The World's Whales-Minasian, Balcomb lll, Foster.
Photographic credits: Nicolas Primolal/, Andrew Sutton/
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  • Blue-Whale