Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Beluga Whale

Thousand-pound canaries!

No, that's not a joke.  Although belugas don't fly like birds, their whistles are a bit like those of pretty birds.  Fishermen often call them "canaries of the sea."  Like canaries, the beluga whale sometimes find themselves in a cage.  They usually live in the Arctic seas, at the edge of the ice pack.  Freezing temperatures sometimes turn the surface of the water suddenly to ice and, at times, the ice can be so thick that these large cetaceans are unable to break it with their padded forehead.  When that happens, they die from a lack of air.  During severe winters, beluga whales go south.  Several long-distance migrators have been found as far from the Arctic as Japan.

The adult beluga is rarely mistaken for any other species, because it is completely white or whitish-grey in color.  The white coloration of the skin is an adaptation to life in the Arctic that allows the beluga whale to camouflage themselves in the polar ice caps as protection against their main predators, polar bears and killer whales.  Unlike the other cetaceans, the belugas seasonally shed their skin.  During the winter, the epidermis thickens and the skin can become yellowish, mainly on the back and fins. When they migrate to the estuaries during the summer, they rub themselves on the gravel of the riverbeds to remove the cutaneous covering.

Belugas usually live in schools of about a dozen.  Sometimes, though, these schools include thousands of animals.  They fish for their own food in shallow water.  Belugas have formidable enemies, principally the killer whale, an enormous cetacean known as one of the fiercest of creatures.  Human fisherman also hunt beluga whales for their fat and their skin.  The skin makes a very tough leather.
When the baby beluga has developed for a year inside of its mother, it is born tail-first.  As soon as her baby is born, the mother mates again.  Every 5th year she takes off from childbearing.  Dang, that is one busy mother!

If you'd like to read a more elaborate page about the beluga whales, visit:

---End of Post "Beluga Whale"

Additional Blog Link:  "Lake Vostok - Mystery @ the Center of Antarctica"

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