Blue Whale
(Balaenoptera musculus)

Blue Whale
Side view of a blue whale, showing the mottled coloration pattern on its body and its small dorsal fin. Photo courtesy of Thomas Jefferson
Blue Whale
Close-up of the head of a blue whale, showing two blow holes. Tom Kieckhefer

Click below to hear the blue whale:
You may need headphones or external speakers on your computer to hear this particular sound
 
Click this button use any media player
Low frequency moans as recorded by SOSUS receivers in the North Atlantic. To make this sound audible for humans, it was sped up by a factor of ten. This raises the pitch and compresses the time. You may need headphones or external speakers on your computer to hear this particular sound
Sound © Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Bioacoustics Research Program.
Click either choice below to hear the second sound sample:
 
Click this button use any media player
Blue whales recorded off the Monterey Bay, CA submarine canyon rim during the fall of 1986. This sound is in a higher frequency range than the previous recording (above) and may be a harmonic of a lower frequency call.
Courtesy of Bernd Wursig
Description
These bluish gray whales are the largest living mammals, reaching as long as 30.5 m (100 ft) and weighing 160 tons. Feeding mostly on krill with the use of baleen plates, these animals can consume four tons of krill per day during the peak summer feeding season! Blue whales are found along or offshore of the continental shelf in all parts of the ocean. Blue whales produce long, multi-part vocalizations that include long pulses, buzzes, and rasps. These vocalizations are typically in the 15-40 Hz range, often below the threshold of human hearing. Even though blue whale calls are generally the same, there are distinct geographic variations that might help scientists distinguish separate populations. Scientists currently use blue whale vocalizations to study their distribution. How blue whales use their vocalizations is not known for certain, but the calls could possibly aid in long-distance communication or navigation.
 
Additional Links on DOSITS

References

  • McDonald, M.A., Calambokidis, J., Teranishi, A.M. and Hildebrand, J.A. 2001, "The acoustic calls of blue whales off California with gender data." Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 109(4): 1728-1737. 
  • Mellinger, D.K. and Clark, C.W. 2003, "Blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) sounds from the North Atlantic." Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 114: 1108-1119. 
  • Richardson, W.J., Green, C.R. Jr., Malme, C.I. and Thomson, D.H. 1995, "Marine Mammals and Noise." San Diego, CA: Academic Press. 
  • Stafford, K.M., Nieukirk, S.L. and Fox, C.G. 2001, "Geographic and seasonal variation of blue whale calls in the North Pacific." Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 3(1): 65-76. 
Additional Resources

  • "American Cetacean Society Fact Sheet: Blue Whale." (Link)
  • "National Marine Mammal Laboratory: Blue Whales." (Link)
  • "National Park Conservation Assocication, Marine Wildlife: Blue Whale." (Link)