Whales are such captivating inhabitants of the great oceans worldwide, living such long lives and growing so large you can't imagine how such a massive thing swims in the ocean. They are the epitome of the phrase “gentle giants’ for most of its species eat krill and plankton primarily; by their size alone, you would think they would eat us whole since their large mouths can easily fit an adult.
One specific species is the Bowhead whale. It is an interesting topic as they live in such harsh conditions of the arctic but were hunted by people for their meat and blubber to the point of their population dwindling and being listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
12 Facts about the Bowhead Whale
Perhaps you want to know more about bowhead whales. Here are some of the interesting bowhead whale facts that will blow your mind.
They are perfect ice breakers
Bowhead whales are endemic of the arctic and subarctic waters, and they survive this rough terrain by having the ability to break through arctic ice as thick as 2 feet thick with their massive triangular skull big as a bus and a sturdy body.
In addition, bowhead whales need to resurface above water to breathe since they are mammals and don’t have gills as fishes do, thus adapting their bodies to easily break the ice.
They have a big mouth to feed
The sheer massive scale of most whales dwarf many mammals that live all over the globe, but Bowhead whales are awarded the title of having the largest mouth of any animal in the world. These massive beasts can weigh 75 to 100 tons and reach a length of 18meters, and these whales' mouths are almost one-third of the length of the body.
Has a simple diet
You would think that their massive mouths are perfect for devouring even the biggest fishes of the ocean, but these whales primarily feed off marine invertebrates like krill and copepods. The huge size of its head partnered with its natural filter-feeding system called baleen plates.
It makes it very easy to consume about 1.8 tons of food each day. They only need to swim towards their prey and open its largemouth; water is filtered through its baleen plates and trapping its food inside.
Can live up to two decades
These huge mammals not only outweigh most other mammals but even outlive them by a hundred years. For example, one whale caught off the Alaskan coast in May 2007 was observed to have a harpoon that was made during the 1880s, and they estimated the age of the whale had reached between 115 to 130 years by the time it died.
This interesting discovery sparked an investigation on how long they can live, and scientists have decoded its genome sequence and revealed it to have a maximum lifespan of 268 years.
They have resistance to cancer
The presence of a larger number of cells in an organism was originally thought to increase the risk of mutations that cause age-related illnesses, including cancer.
However, despite having thousands of times more cells than other animals, the bowhead whale has a significantly higher resistance to cancer and aging. This is a big factor as to why bowhead whales live such long lives.
These fantastic singers of the ocean are highly vocal and use a low frequency to socialize with other Bowhead whales. They communicate while travelling, feeding and during the mating season. They like to show off their ability to other whales creating long, complex, and varying songs to each other, attracting the opposite sex to improve their chances of successfully breeding.
Migrating for safety
They were living in the arctic and posed a real threat of having them being trapped in the ice. Even though they can break it, there are periods where the ice can be too thick to handle, even for these giants.
Migration also means they can take advantage of food concentrations. This means that they get to feed a lot more in the high Arctic during the summer months.
Bowhead whales take at least 10 to 15 years for them to be able to reproduce children. Breeding season starts from March through August, and this is when they sing the most to find a suitable partner to breed with, but their sexual activity is not monogamous; but instead, males can come in pairs or a group of several males and one to two females.
Mother and child relationship
After a successful breeding season, a mother needs 13 to 14 months to gestate until they are ready to be born. Being in such cold waters, a newborn calf comes out with a thick layer of blubber, and in only 30 minutes, these calves can start to swim independently. A newborn calf is already as large as 13-15ft long and weighs as much as 1000kg and easily grows up to 26ft long in just the first year.
Hunted to extinction
As early as the 16th-century commercial whaling of Bowhead whales for their precious resource. Even though these giants seem intimidating at first glance, people realized that these whales swim slowly and just float after death, making it very easy for hunters to wipe out a population of Bowhead whales during the mid-century.
While the whaling of the Bowhead whales have been regulated or even disavowed by animal conservation efforts, the traditional hunting of these whales is still allowed. Thus, natives of Alaska maintain a strict tradition of hunting these whales without hurting their population and for these whales to continue to thrive.
Years of being hunted for its meat, blubber, bones, oil, and baleen; finally, in 1966, a moratorium had been passed to keep this endangered species from being hunted to extinction.
Several groups such as the National Marine Fisheries Service and the International Union for Conservation of Nature list them as federally endangered to protect these animals from hunters, restoring areas where they live and alleviate some obstacles these whales might have during migration.
After learning so much about these gentle giants of the ocean, the best action we can take is to help these animals' conservation efforts. Be informed, and always share these fun and interesting bowhead whale facts.
Finally, be kind to these animals, as they play a great role in marine life. I hope you liked this information about bowhead whale facts and made you like them more.
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