Name(s): Blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus)
Size: Length: up to 33.5 meters. Weight: up to 149 tonnes.
Diet: Fish and copepods (tiny crustaceans) may occasionally be part of blue whales’ diet, but their primary food is krill.
Habitat/Range: There are blue whales in all oceans except the Arctic. Balaenoptera musculus brevicauda, a subspecies of blue whales known as the pygmy blue whale, is typically distributed north of the Antarctic Convergence and is most prevalent in the waters off Australia, Madagascar, and New Zealand.
Conservation status: Endangered
Superpower/fun fact: Blue whales are able to produce the loudest sound of any animal on earth – imagine being able to shout from Adelaide and being heard in Brisbane.
Credit: Grace Russell, The Fat Whales Project
Esteemed readers, gather ’round as we witness the most magnificent creature in the deep blue sea – the blue whale – and explore the myriad reasons why we should all fall in love with these gentle giants.
Let’s dive right into the undeniable blue whale in the room: their colossal size. The largest creature to have ever roamed the Earth, blue whales surpass three school buses in length, outweigh a small aeroplane, and have a heart that could fill a bathtub! Their sheer presence and graceful navigation through the water, courtesy of their torpedo-shaped body, leaves us in awe.
The blue whale also surprises us with its incredible voice and a vocal range that’ll give opera singers a run for their money. Their songs, or rather their low-frequency calls, can travel vast distances underwater with astonishing clarity, communicating over up to 1,600 kilometres and reaching volumes that would make a rock concert seem like a lullaby.
Voting for Australian Mammal of the Year 2023 is now open!
More information about the voting process can be found here.
Blue whales have an appetite that could rival the world’s greatest food enthusiasts. Can you imagine devouring several tons of tiny shrimp-like creatures called krill every single day? It’s an extraordinary feat. They effortlessly skim the ocean’s surface, engulfing enormous amounts of krill with their baleen plates, showcasing their unparalleled dining skills. Move over, foodies, because the blue whale is the true master of the buffet!
Blue whales are not just ordinary contenders; they’re living relics of our planet’s history. With a lineage dating back 10-11 million years, they represent the wonders of evolution. They gracefully remind us of the immense diversity and beauty our planet has to offer. Hunted to near extinction during the commercial whaling period of the last century, they have showed incredible resilience to survive and adapt. A powerful and inspiring story, showing us the importance of protecting and cherishing our environment.
Finally, one of the most endearing aspects of the blue whale is their humble nature. Despite their unparalleled size and undeniable talents, these gentle giants roam the ocean with grace and tranquillity, never seeking the limelight or demanding attention. They are the epitome of humility and a shining example for us all. The blue whale teaches us that true greatness lies not in self-aggrandisement, but in living harmoniously with the world around us.
Esteemed readers, as we conclude our journey into the realm of the blue whale, we must remember that their colossal size, mesmerising voice, extraordinary appetite, humble nature, and position as an evolutionary marvel combine to make them the perfect Australian Mammal of 2023. Let’s celebrate the magnificence of these gentle giants by giving them a vote.
The Ultramarine project – focussing on research and innovation in our marine environments – is supported by Minderoo Foundation's Flourishing Oceans initiative.