10 Interesting Facts About Gray Whales
The Gray Whale is a miraculous creature. In addition to their enormous size, the Gray Whale has an abundance of traits that distinguish it from the rest of the Whale population. Below are ten facts about Gray Whales that will make you admire them even more than you did before:
– The Gray Whale has not only one name, but five total! They also go by Grey Whale, Gray Back Whale, Pacific Gray Whale, and California Gray Whale.
– Due to parasites, known as whale lice, their dark grey appearance looks discolored. They are covered in white-grey scars that often look encrusted, especially around the flippers, tail and head. However, when they are first born, they are almost black in color!
– While most other whale species are found to have a dorsal fin, the Gray Whale does not. Instead, they are found to have a dorsal hump at the lower end of their backs.
– Being bottom feeders, the Gray Whale hunts for its pray at the bottom of the ocean. By filter feeding, they capture their prey through their baleen bristles.
– Gray Whales communicate to one another both above and below water. They have very low pitches and moans which can be heard over great distances, termed as echolocation. Aside from their vocal communication, they rise above and splash their bodies against the water, otherwise known as breaching.
– They have an abundance of Myoglobin within their muscles. Because of this, they store a high amount of oxygen which allows them to stay submerged underwater far longer than other mammals, ranging from 20-30 minutes!
– Aside from human activity, the Gray Whale only has one ocean predator, the Orca Whale. During migration periods, the calves are especially in danger as the Orcas will try and separate them from their mothers by attacking from below. Miraculously, it was discovered that humpback whales will defend Gray Whale calves if they witness this situation arise.
– In the past, Gray Whales used to be known as the “Devil Fish.” This is due to the fact that Gray Whale mothers fiercely defend their offspring, as a mother should! They fend off Orcas as well as fighting back against whalers.
– In the late 1800s, whaling caused a giant decrease in the Gray Whale population. When they became less profitable due to the low abundance of whales left, there was a halt in hunting and their numbers started to go up. However, the introduction of factory ships in the early 1900s caused another upraise in hunting and a downfall for the species. But don’t feel too disappointed! International protection against whale hunters surfaced in 1946, eventually removing them from the endangered species list in 1994!
– An adult Gray Whale has unique sleeping habits in which they barely sleep at all! At most, the Gray Whale will take 10-20 minute naps. During migration, the whales will sleep while swimming, especially when having a calf depending on them. If their mothers do not tow them along, the calves will sink, rather than float, due to the lack of blubber and fat on their bodies when they are young.