The number one reason is how many scientists have learned so much from research and biological studies. There are many reasons for the scientist to study and research whales. Many of the topics are whale behavior such as echolocation, language, intelligence, and environmental impact. Some of the information we have learned has been by watching them thrive and survive.
Part of a healthy society for whale species and marine mammals is hunting and protecting one another. This is similar to the way humans, elephants, and primates live. Two characteristics that are found in few other species is a high degree of intelligence and self-recognition. Because whales possess very complicated and sophisticated language, many researchers believe that humans will need to develop new technologies so we can communicate with them. The cetaceans species include whales, dolphins, and porpoises. Because of the cetaceans, which include whale, dolphins and porpoises, level of intelligence many researchers and environmentalists wish to give them specific protective rights; the same rights as humans.
Our growing understanding of whales is vital for improving safety measures which will lead to improvements in the ocean ecosystem. Echolocation is the sonar-like system in which visible and invisible objects found by sound waves reflected back to the emitter. The research of this sonar-like systems has led to improvement and implementation new technologies for human sonar systems. This study has taught us that man-made sounds have an effect on echolocation of marine life. So we should attempt to make ways to better protect the cetaceans from the noise we make. We can start by creating new technologies that don’t interfere with echolocation and ban air gun blasting. Echolocation is one reason is that whales help military personnel locate underwater mines and people lost at sea. The human race needs to approach these studies hardheartedly because of the cetaceans intelligence and their ability to learn and their ability to work as a team.
How do whales affect the environment?
To begin with, whales regulate the food system through stabilization and ensuring that individual species do not overpopulate the ocean. As an example, the blue whale consumes 40 million krill a day. Now imagine the impact if the blue whale became extinct. The krill would thrive and survive, thereby overpopulating and destroying the species that they feed on. Poof their goes the stabilization of the food chain.
A by-product of the whale’s food consumption is whale poop which offsets carbon in the atmosphere. Studies show that nutrients found in sperm whale poop aids in the growth of phytoplankton. It is estimated that whale poop is responsible for the extraction of 400,000 metric tons carbon from the air every year. Whale poop also helps stabilizes the food chain by stimulating the growth of phytoplankton by helping to feed fish. This allows the fish to reproduce and survive, which feed other species.
How do whales help growing economies?
Movies such as Free Willie, Orca, have aided in the growth of whale watching. People spend billions in the hope to get a glance of whales in their habitat. This spending has become a significant source of income leading to economic growth in wealthy and developing countries. Global whale watching has increased the global presence for these countries and helps attract additional investments from other countries. However, along time ago whales weren’t were so loved the outcome was sad and unfortunate.
In the old days of the whaling era, many species were slaughtered to the point that some species almost extinct and endangered. This killing of whales eventually caused all sorts of environmental changes. Those changes over time led to increased levels of carbon dioxide and global warming.
Blue Whales: One species that is at Risk
The blue whale is considered the biggest and loudest animal in the world. Blue whales can be heard several miles away. As a child, I remember seeing photographs of these creatures and was overwhelmed at their size. Because of their size, a blue whale is rarely attacked. The blue whale’s only known predator is killer whales and when killer whales usually attack they only attack young and defenseless calves.
Although the blue whale’s main diet is krill, it will consume creatures called copepods. Krill are found in Arctic waters. The blue whale is classified as a baleen whale because blue whales don’t have teeth so they can’t chew or grab onto their food. The whale consumes food through a process called filter feeding.
This method implies filtering groups of krill from the water by the use of baleen plates. The plates have bristles which act like a net or a fence. As the blue whale swims at its prey, it opens its mouth to capture the food. Then the whale pushes the excess water out by using its tongue, the krill are trapped on the bristles. Once all the water is gone the whale eats the krill, whole. Because of the size of its esophagus, a blue or baleen whale couldn’t swallow an adult human.
What is the habitat of a blue whale?
One of the great tragedies of human history is the whaling era. Whaling, in its time, was a popular and lucrative business, causing death among all whale species. The extent of whaling among the blue whale almost brought the species to extinction. Estimates of the blue whale population before the whaling era were 200,000 – 300,000. After the whaling era, the species numbered between 5,000-12,000.
Since the whaling era, blue whales still can be seen in the Antartic, Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans. However, they are more readily found in colder waters where they store food and prepare for the mating season. During the mating season, blue whales are seen in warmer waters such as the Gulf of Mexico, Costa Rica, the Fallon, Channel Islands, and Monterey Bay. During their migration trips, blue whales survive off their blubber. These trips can take up to four months traveling at 3 -6 miles per hour. However, if a whale becomes agitated, it can reach speeds of 30 miles per hour. The gestation period of a whale is 10- 12 months during which they produce one calf. A baby blue whale gains 200 pounds a day.
The Reproduction and Lifespan of Whales
Once a blue whale is impregnated the gestation period is usually ten to twelve months. At the end of which the female whale, called a cow, produces a single offspring. The calf or baby whale is nursed for six to nine months. The milk of the cow is full of fat and nutrients. Once the calf has been weaned, it starts consuming solid foods and hunting. After five to ten years the adult whale is able to mate. A cow produces every two to three years.
I have already mentioned the whaling era. In a previous post, I wrote about the potential dangers to the food cycle of offshore drilling specifically air-gun blasts. But blue whale also faces threats from pollution, the plastic bottles and wrapping tossed in the ocean during boating, collisions with boats and ships, global warming, fishing gear and marine equipment.