blue whale

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Related to Baleanoptera musculus: Blue Whales

blue whale,

a baleen whalewhale,
aquatic mammal of the order Cetacea, found in all oceans of the world. Members of this order vary greatly in size and include the largest animals that have ever lived. Cetaceans never leave the water, even to give birth.
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, Balaenoptera musculus. Also called the sulphur-bottom whale and Sibbald's rorqual, it is the largest animal that has ever lived. Blue whales have been known to reach a length of 100 ft (30.5 m) and to weigh up to 200 tons (180 metric tons), but the typical size is about 70–90 ft (21–27 m) and 100–150 tons (90–135 metric tons). The blue whale is slate blue in color and has a dorsal fin. It is toothless and has fringed baleen, or whalebone, plates in its mouth, which act as a food strainer. As water is expelled from the whale's mouth, plankton is trapped behind the strainer. The neck of the blue whale has 80 to 100 conspicuous furrows called ventral grooves, which alternately expand and contract as the animal takes in and expels water. The blue whale is cosmopolitan in distribution. In summer it inhabits polar seas, feeding in the water of melting icepacks; in winter it migrates to warmer latitudes, occasionally reaching the equator. Mating occurs at the end of winter, with a single calf born every second or third year, after a gestation period of 10 to 11 months. The calf is nursed for 6 months and reaches puberty in about 3 years. Blue whales may live 100 years or more. Because of extensive whalingwhaling,
the hunting of whales for the oil that can be rendered from their flesh, for meat, and for baleen (whalebone). Historically, whale oil was economically the most important. Early Whaling

Whaling for subsistence dates to prehistoric times.
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, their numbers have been reduced from an estimated 400,000 to between 10,000 and 25,000, and they are listed as endangered. In 2014 the California population, which ranges along W North America, was determined by researchers to have recovered to sustainable levels. They are classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Cetacea, family Balaenopteridae.

Bibliography

See G. C. Small, The Blue Whale (1971).

blue whale

the largest mammal: a widely distributed bluish-grey whalebone whale, Sibbaldus (or Balaenoptera) musculus, closely related and similar to the rorquals: family Balaenopteridae