Blue whales are the largest animal ever known to have lived, even larger than the dinosaurs who once roamed the Earth. In fact, the longest blue whale ever measured was 111 feet long — approximately the length of three school buses parked end to end.
Scientists have determined two causes for the blue whale's massive size. First, the blue whale lives in the ocean. Since the ocean covers more than 70 percent of the Earth's surface, whales have plenty of room to grow and swim.
Another contributor to the blue whale's size is that weightless feeling you've probably noticed if you've ever floated in a swimming pool. It's similar to the weightlessness astronauts feel when they're in a low gravity situation in outer space!
Unlike humans, the blue whale does not rely on its skeleton to support its huge body. Instead, the whale relies on the buoyancy of the water around it to keep its body afloat.
Despite its huge size, the blue whale's diet consists almost entirely of krill — small shrimp-like crustaceans. The whale gathers thousands of krill at a time by sucking enormous mouthfuls of seawater through a special mouth filter called a "baleen." As the whale closes its mouth, seawater is flushed out, leaving krill and small fish behind for the whale to swallow.
Coming across such a giant creature in the ocean may seem scary, but blue whales are harmless to humans. In fact, they even have some things in common with us!
Blue whales are warm-blooded mammals. Unlike fish, they must breathe air.
Research also indicates that blue whales are highly social and very intelligent. They even have their own form of language used to communicate with other whales. Listen to what they have to say!
Here are some other fun facts about blue whales:
- The heart of an adult blue whale is the largest of any mammal.
- A blue whale heart can weigh up to 1,300 pounds and is the size of a Volkswagen Beetle.
- The tongue of an adult blue whale is approximately the same weight as an adult elephant.
What about baby blue whales? Here are some fun facts about blue whales' "little" ones:
- At birth, a blue whale calf is about the size of a hippopotamus.
- A baby whale can drink up to 100 gallons of milk every day during its first seven months of life.
- With that kind of diet, it should come as no surprise that a baby whale can gain up to 200 pounds a day.