Gray Whale facts
It’s gray whale season in San Diego! Here are 10 interesting gray whale facts that you may not have known!
Starting with one of the most shocking gray whale facts, the length of their commute. These creatures undertake massive migrations, surpassing others in the animal kingdom. The commencement of the gray whale migration is triggered by the icy waters near the northern Bering Sea start freezing in winter. The whales embark on their journey down the West Coast without even pausing for food along the way. It spans from 5,000 to 7,000 miles each way, totaling 12,000 to 14,000 miles roundtrip. Pregnant mothers are the first to reach the lagoons of Mexico, where they give birth and recuperate after the arduous journey, before returning to their feeding grounds in the northern Bering Sea.
By 1950, almost all gray whale populations had been reduced. The extensive travels made them easy targets for hunters, ultimately leading to their near extinction. Their high visibility and accessibility near coastlines created optimal conditions for whale hunting, nearly to extinction. This practice came to an end in 1946 with the creation of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Following the establishment of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the gray whale species began a recovery. Today, they are safeguarded by a variety of organizations. Unfortunately, the Western Pacific stock remains critically low, with only 200+ individuals.
The gray whale is the only living member of the baleen whale family, Eschrichtiidae. This is because of the way that these whales feed. Gray whales distinguish themselves by possessing two blowholes and baleen instead of teeth, setting them apart from other rorqual whales. Despite sharing similarities with rorqual whales in their feeding habits, gray whales stand in a unique class slightly beyond this genus.
Gray whales are extensively studied due to their high visibility and ease of observation from the surface. The close proximity of these magnificent creatures to our coastlines allows researchers to employ various identification methods.Their frequent proximity to coastlines and predictable migration patterns make them accessible to study both from land and water. Some gray whales spend their entire lives off the Oregon coast, making it easy to investigate their behaviors.
While all whales have differences, some have similarities with certain species. This gray whale fact marks their unmistakable identity. They resemble massive floating rocks and lack a dorsal fin. Instead, they have a dorsal “hump” and a series of six to twelve “knuckles” that look like a bumpy ridge down their back. Also, unlike most whales, the gray whale has paddle-shaped flippers, which help them nestle into the mud and suck in the sediment from the bottom. Our intimate 6 passenger vessels can give you an unforgettable encounter with these unique creatures!
Here goes one of the more concerning gray whale facts. Gray whales, spending a lot of their time in shallow waters, provided an ideal setting for fishermen to employ harpoons as their primary hunting method against these vulnerable creatures. This lead these animals to retaliate when under assault and earned them the term “devil fish”. However, gray whales have since had no animosity towards humankind. Despite years of resentment for the treatment they endured, the implementation of various protection acts has allowed the gray whale population to forgive.
Despite their colossal size, gray whales source their primary meals from some of the tiniest organisms. Distinguishing themselves with a set of keratin-like plates lining their mouths instead of teeth, these whales utilize this adaptation for hunting. The baleen plates function by filtering food from the water inside the whale’s mouth. Baleen plates capture the whale’s prey while allowing water to pass through freely.Within a gray whale’s mouth, up to 180 baleen plates hang down inside their jaw and measure approximately 18 inches in length.
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