The Whisker Chronicles

Whiskers are also known as vibrissa, from the latin vibrare "to vibrate". Vibrissa are the specialized hairs on mammals and the bristlelike feathers near the mouths of many birds. Their resonant design is symbolic of the energies, good and bad, that are reverberating throughout the natural world. Every living thing is connected and, by birthright, deserves to exist.

Day Nine of Twelve Days of Arctic Animals: Beluga Whale

Beluga whale at the Atlanta aquarium.  Photo by Greg Hume

Beluga whale at the Atlanta aquarium.
Photo by Greg Hume

Scientific Name:  Delphinapterus leucas

The word beluga comes from the Russian word “bielo” meaning white. Beluga whales are actually born dark gray and are not white for up to eight years.

Where Beluga Whales Live: 

Beluga whales live in the arctic and sub-arctic waters, in inlets, fjords, channels, bays, and the shallow waters along the coast of Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Norway, and the Soviet Union.

This map shows the regular annual range of the beluga in yellow, while the striped areas indicate the beluga’s maid summer distribution. (IMAGE COURTESY OF WWF)

This map shows the regular annual range of the beluga in yellow, while the striped areas indicate the beluga’s maid summer distribution. (IMAGE COURTESY OF WWF)

What Beluga Whales Eat: 

Beluga whales eat smelt, flatfish, flounder, sculpins, salmon, cod, crab, shrimp, clams, worms, octopus, squid, and other bottom dwelling creatures. Without many large, sharp teeth, beluga whales grab their prey using suction to trap it into their mouths and eat them whole.

How Long Beluga Whales Live:  25 to 40 years

Why Beluga Whales are Awesome:

Most whales have necks that do not turn well because the seven cervical vertebrate are fused. Beluga whales can turn and nod their heads because their cervical vertebrate are not fused.  They can also dive to at least 2,600 feet and are capable of swimming backwards to navigate ice.

Image credit: Brad Benter, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Image credit: Brad Benter, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Why We Care about Beluga Whales: 

Whales are at the top of the food chain and therefore help the balance of the marine ecosystems in which they live.  Beluga whales are also a source of food for Inuit communities. Beluga whales depend on sea ice for its existence, much like polar bears do, and can be directly affected by global warming.

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This entry was posted on December 22, 2013 by in Arctic Animals, Mammals, Wildlife.
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