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Monday, June 13, 2016

Those Baby-faced Belugas

                                 
   In the movie Finding Dory, there appears to be a character named Bailey the Beluga whale. Finally, one of my favorite animals is getting a little press-time. I've been fascinated by them since childhood, in other words a dang long time. They almost look extraterrestrial, or carved of alabaster. And they blow bubbles, and seem to have a perpetual smile. 
                             

     "They're an evolutionary surprise - a warm-blooded mammal in a numbingly cold sea. Resembling curious ghosts, these intelligent mammals use one of the most complex sonars of any animal. 
Jean-Michel Cousteau 


The beluga whale gets its name from the Russian word for "white ones", its color and globular head make it easily recognizable. They are born dark gray, however, and can take up to eight years to turn completely white.


The beluga is closely related to the narwhal; and they are the only two members of the Monodontidae family.

   

The beluga is able to swim backwards, and can change the shape of its bulbous forehead, called a "melon",  by blowing air around its sinuses.The neck vertebrae is not fused together, giving it the unusual ability to turn its head up, down and side-to-side
 Belugas, like other arctic whales, do not have dorsal fins (a dorsal fin causes extra heat loss and would be a major hindrance in the arctic ice), but they do have a tough dorsal ridge. They also have a thick layer of blubber that insulates them from the icy arctic waters. Being quite social, it is possible to see pods numbering in the hundreds near Churchill, Canada. Their dives may last up to 25 minutes and can reach depths of 800 meters. (over 2000 feet!)
   Belugas are one of only three whales that spend all their lives in arctic waters. The other two are the Bowhead--a baleen whale, 

    and the Narwhal, a toothed whale like the beluga.

                           
Yikes, where'd that sweet smile go.....


    Threats to beluga whales include climate change, hunting, oil and gas development, and industrial and urban pollution. Polar bears and killer whales are known predators of belugas throughout their Arctic range.

                       
                                        Bye for now......





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