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For as long as humans have been on this earth studying our planet and animals, our knowledge on baby whales is actually very limited! Scientists do not actually know most biological factors about the majority of whales and their babies. We will walk through all baby whale facts and information available about them to demystify these fascinating marine giants.
Baby whales are often referred to as “calves”, whereas mothers are referred to as “cows”. Males are sometimes referred to as “bulls”.
Once a female whale becomes pregnant, her gestation period can vary greatly. Depending on the particular species of whale, a gestation period can be anywhere between 9 to 16 months. During the gestation period the whale calf develops and grows in the mother’s uterus and is fed nutrients through the umbilical cord.
During mating season, different whale species typically travel towards the equator to take advantage of the warmer climates and begin mating or bearing offspring. The mating season period varies species to species, because different species can prefer to live in either colder or warmer waters. But typically mating season will occur during colder seasons. Although many whale species migrate to bear offspring, this is not true for all species.
Because whales are marine mammals, the females carry the offspring in their wombs and have live births! Generally when calves are born, they emerge from their mom tail first in order to prevent drowning. Once a female whale gives birth, they will rush their calf up to the ocean surface, so they can take their first breath!
The mortality rate for calves can be very high during the first year of its life, so mother whales make sure to keep a very close eye over them especially after they are born to give them the best protection. During the first month of life, many whale calves will not sleep. So this means that mother cows will have to forgo sleep in order to keep a watchful eye over them.
Once a female whale gives birth, her calf will feed off her milk which contains ample amounts of fat and nutrients. The percentage of high fat concentration also keeps the milk from dissipating in the ocean water. Whale calves will continue to feed off the mother’s milk for up to a few years until it becomes self-sufficient to find its own food. Female whales typically nurse underwater while remaining very close to the surface of the ocean, so their cows can take a breath of air when they need it.
The size of a whale calf will depend on the size of the mother, but generally you can expect it to be about 1/4th to 1/3rd the length of the mother. So, the whale calf of the blue whale will be significantly larger than that of a grey whale, for example.
Blue whales are the biggest animals on the planet, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that blue whale mothers give birth to gigantic babies as well! A newborn blue whale is born at a whopping 20-26ft long, weighing up to 6,600lbs, which is heavier than an adult male rhino.
If you’re fascinated by baby whales just as much as we are, we invite you to join us for a whale watching cruise at Harbor Breeze. Each whale watching excursion is packed full of information on whales, narrated by an experienced naturalist on-board each and every trip. Not only will you see breathtaking views of ocean marine life, you will walk away with so much education on these wonderful creatures and their habitat. We welcome you and your family to join us on the next journey for an excursion the entire family will cherish for years to come.