Thursday, July 2, 2009

Gray Whale Calves

Here are some interesting facts about Gray Whale Calves

Breeding and giving birth are the reason for southern migration.

Born without a blubber layer, babies need warmer waters.

Moms bear calves about every 2-3 years.

Gestation period averages 12 months (Sperm whale 17 months).

Pregnancy is telescopic - babies double their size the last 2 months.

Babies average 15 feet long at birth (Blue whale 26 feet).

Baby whales are born tail first.

Calves weigh about 2,000 pounds at birth (Blue whale 8,000 pounds).

Babies must surface and catch their first breath within 15 seconds.

Within 30 minutes, babies learn to swim.

Babies nurse frequently on rich milk - 50-60 percent butterfat.

Babies don't suck, the mother pumps milk into its mouth.

Calves put on as much as 9 pounds an hour.

Mothers lose 1/3 of their weight while nursing.

During migration and while in calving areas, gray whales eat very little, although they occasionally will eat shrimp-like mysids or small fish at the surface. Thus the blubber they add during the summer feedings must provide energy for the remainder of the year. Many whales may go without food for 3, 4 or even 5 months. Recent research at Laguna Ojo de Liebre has shown that there are critters in the muddy bottom upon which the whales may feed.

During feeding, the gray whale appears to prefer using its right side to scour the bottom and find its food. This has been noted by several long time observers. To feed they gulp mouthfuls of mud from the bottom, then use the whiskery baleen as a filter to drain out the unwanted material. This leaves the amphipods stuck to the baleen inside their mouths. They then use their tongues to loosen the amphipods from the baleen, and swallow.

The gray whale has two blowholes, and between 9 and 14 dorsal nodules on its back, instead of a back fin. A gray whale spout or blow can reach up to 15 feet, and resembles a heart shape from the front or behind. The natural color of the gray whale is dark gray. Often the skin is discolored from barnacle scars left on the skin.

Whales are mammals. They breath air, have hair (calves have hairs around the front of their heads), are warm blooded, and give birth to live offspring that suckle milk from their mothers. The gray whale is in the sub-order Mysticeti. The Mysticeti whales have baleen instead of teeth. The male gray whale can reach 45 feet, while the female can reach 50 feet and weigh 30 or 35 tons. The largest grey whales have flukes, or tails, that may span ten feet.

Length about 40 to 50 feet. Weight about 50,000 to 80,000 pounds. I have read that they live up to 50 years. Just like people, once they reach middle age, they seem to get broader . The Gray Whales have a double blow hole.

If you ever get a chance to visit Oregon go to Depoe Bay and take a ride on the "Whales Tail"

270 Coast Guard Pl.
Depoe Bay, Oregon 97341

(541) 765-2545 or (800) 733-8915