Balaenoptera musculus   (Linnaeus,  1758) (Whale)
Organism information awaits expert curation
Class: Mammalia

Size: 24-28 m; Average length is adult males is 25 m and females is 27m.

Weight: 100-120 ton

Color: Blue Whales are slate blue to bluish-grey in color, mottled with grey or greyish-white with lighter spots, particularly on the back and shoulders. Underside often covered with microorganisms, giving the belly a yellowish tinge. Some animals may have a yellowish or mustard coloration, caused by diatom accumulation.

These are the largest living animals, with females and the animals of the Southern Hemisphere being larger. Before the whaling industry depleted Blue Whale stocks, individuals of the Antarctic attained lengths up to 30.5 m. Such animals were estimated to weigh over 160 tons. It feeds on euphausiids with some squid, amphipods, copepods, red crabs

The body is very broad and the head is U-shaped when seen from above, whilst the tail stock is narrow. There is one ridge from the blowhole to the tip of the snout. There are 2 slightly concave regions, above the lungs. The flippers are slim, and one seventh the body length. The dorsal fin is very small, less than 33 cm high, and variable in shape. It is located far back on the animal's tail stock. The number of ventral grooves as given by different sources varies from 55-100. The Blue Whale's baleen plates are all black, relatively short, stiff, and coarsely fringed. They number 260-400 per row. The spout is vertical, slender, and up to 9 m in height. Dorsal fin short, only about 35 cm, and placed far back on the body. Upper jaw is the widest in the genus, and the rostrum is the bluntest. There are 50-90 throat grooves that extend from the chin to just beyond the navel.

There are separate populations of Blue Whales in the Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere. There may be no more than a hundred Blue Whales left in the Southern Hemisphere, even after decades of protection.

The oesophagus of the Blue Whale is quite narrow. its width is only sufficient to allow the passage of the krill that are about 5 cm long. A large Blue Whale can consume 4-8 tons of krill a day. After 4 months of krill season in the polar region, the Blue Whales move to the tropics. Apparently they do not feed at all in the warmer waters.

Blue Whales produce loud and deep sounds that are said to be 'the most powerful sustained utterances known from the Whales or any other living source'. They may also produce high frequency sounds.

Gestation is 11-12 months long with young born in warm, low latitude waters in the winter months after the adults return from their high latitude feeding grounds. Weaned: 7-8 months. Sexual maturity occurs at 8-9 years and young are produced every 2-3 years.

Similar species: A subspecies called Pygmy Blue Whale Balaenoptera musculus brevicauda is indistinguishable from the blue whale at sea, except from being shorter with relatively large head.

Synonym (s)
Balaena borealis Fischer, 1829
Balaena musculus Linnaeus, 1758
Balaenoptera carolinae Malm, 1866
Balaenoptera gigas Reinhardt, 1857
Balaenoptera indica Blyth, 1859
Balaenoptera jubartes Lacepede, 1804
Balaenoptera miramaris Lahille, 1898
Balaenoptera sibbaldi Van Beneden, 1887
Balaenoptera sibbaldii Flower, 1885
Physalus latirostris Flower, 1865
Physalus sibbaldii Gray, 1847
Pterobalaena gigas Reinhardt, 1857
Pterobalaena grypus Munter, 1877
Rorqualus boops F. Cuvier, 1836
Rorqualus borealis Hamilton, 1837
Rorqualus major Knox, 1870
Sibbaldius antarcticus Burmeister, 1866
Sibbaldius borealis Gray, 1864
Sibbaldius musculus Kellogg, 1929

Common Name (s)
• Blue Whale (English)
• Sulphur Bottom Whale (English)
• Sibbalds Rorqual (English)
• Raghwa (Hindi)
• Sibbald's Rorqual (English)
• Thimingilam (Tamil)
• Blue Rorqual (English)
• Great Blue Whale (English)
• Great Northern Rorqual (English)
• Ostende Whale (English)
• Sulphurbottom Whale (English)
• Thimingalam
Economic Importance and Threats
Importance:  Ecosystem balance
(Due to intense hunting, the ecosystem balance in areas where Whales were once common is upset.)
Threats:  Anthropogenic

Habitat:  Open Sea, Coastal
Prey:  Krill
IUCN Status:  Endangered


• Bay of Bengal (Lat: 15) (Long: 90) INDIA
• Gujarat INDIA
• Tamil Nadu INDIA
• West Bengal INDIA
• Bay of Bengal
• Karnataka, Mangalore INDIA (Record: 1874)
• Maharashtra, Dhabol INDIA (Record: 11/12/1913)
• Kerala, Cherai INDIA (Record: 11/1927)
• Gujarat, Mulvel INDIA (Record: 03/1939)
• Tamil Nadu, Mandapam INDIA (Record: 05/02/1966, 17/07/2006)
• Kerala, Kannanparambu INDIA (Record: 25/05/1966)
• Tamil Nadu, Off Tuticorin INDIA (Record: 02/04/1969)
• Tamil Nadu, Pamban INDIA (Record: 04/10/1977)
• Kerala, Chappa Beach INDIA (Record: 02/09/1985)
• Gujarat, Kalumbhar Island INDIA (Record: 08/1988)
• Kerala, Paravana INDIA (Record: 29/09/1988)
• Kerala, Chellanam INDIA (Record: 02/05/1993)
• Tamil Nadu, Gulf of Mannar INDIA
• INDIA (Record: 1800-2000)
• Andhra Pradesh, Motupally INDIA (Record: 10/12/1988)
• Gujarat, Ganeshgram INDIA (Record: 07/12/1960)
• Gujarat, Gulf of Kachchh (Lat: 22.6) (Long: 69.5) INDIA

Literature Source(s)
  • Agarwal, VC and Alfred, JRB (1999) Handbook: Whales, dolphins and dugong from Indian seas ZSI, Calcutta 150 pp Available at - NCL, Pune
  • UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre Available at -
  • Zoological Survey of India (Eds) (1991) Animal resources of India (Protozoa to Mammalia) ZSI 1-694 Available at - NCL, Pune
  • Molur, S and Walker, S (1998) Mammals of India. Report summary 1998 Zoos' Print Journal Zoo Outreach Organisation, Coimbatore 13(9) 7 Available at - NCL, Pune
  • Khalaf, NAB (1987) Blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) from the State of Kuwait, Arabian Gulf Gazelle (Rilchingen-Hanweiler) 14 Available at - Zoological records
  • Sathasivam K (2004) Marine mammals of India Universities Press(India) private limited, Hyderabad, India 180 pp Available at - NIO, Goa
  • Society for the Management of European Biodiversity Data (2009) World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) Available at -
  • (2003) IUCN Red list of threatened species Available at -
  • Borkar, M (2005) Marine mammals, turtles and crocodiles: A field manual NIO, Goa 63 pp Available at - NIO
  • Marine Biological Station, Chennai, Tamil Nadu (2003) Checklist of marine fauna of Tamil Nadu Department of Environment, Government of Tamil Nadu Available at -
  • Dr. Ramesh, R; Dr. Nammalwar, P and Dr. Gowri, VS (2008) Database on coastal information of Tamil Nadu Report Submitted to Environmental Information System (ENVIS) Centre, Department of Environment, Government of Tamil Nadu Institute for Ocean Management, Anna University, Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Available at -
  • Dr. Kumaraguru, AK (2000) Studies on socioeconomics of Coral Reef resource users in the Gulf of Mannar coast, South India Centre for Marine and Coastal studies School of Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai, India Available at -
  • Jayasankar, P; Anoop, B; Rajgopalan, M; Yousuf, KMM; Reynold, P; Krishnakumar, PK; Afsal, VV and Krishnan, AA (2009) Indian Efforts on the Inventorization of Marine Mammal Species for their Conservation and Management Asian Fisheries Science Asian Fisheries Society, Manila, Philippines 22 143-155 Available at -
  • Pillai, PKM and Augustine, SK (2000) A code list of common marine living resources of the Indian seas CMFRI Special Publication No.12 CMFRI 1-115 Available at -
  • Jefferson, TA; Leatherwood, S and Webber, MA (2006) Marine mammals of the world World biodiversity database Available at -
  • Padmanaban P and Dinesh K.P (2011) A checklist of Marine Mammals of India Marine Biology Reginal centre, Zoological Survey of India 4pp Available at -
  • Singh H.S (2003) Sea mammals in marine protected area in the Gulf of Kachchh, Gujarat State, India Indian Journal of Marine Science 258-262pp Available at -

Page last updated on:2012-11-06

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