There are more than 80 whale species in the ocean but Belugas certainly stand out from the rest and they are very sociable animals. The word beluga comes from the Russian word “bielo” meaning white. But did you know that these white whales are born dark gray? It takes up to eight years before they turn completely white.
Here are other amazing facts about these bubbly whales.
- Belugas are sometimes referred to as “melonheads,” because of their bulbous forehead. They can change the shape of their foreheads by blowing air around their sinuses.
- Belugas are one of the most vocal of all whales. They have earned the name “sea canary,” because of their rich and varied vocal range. And what is more amazing is the fact that they can imitate human speech. A whale named NOC, who lived at the National Marine Mammal Foundation in San Diego for 30 years, was one of the first belugas to mimic the speech of its human handlers.
- They use bubbles to communicate. Belugas are also experts when it comes to bubble-blowing. Rings and bubbles released from their blowhole are believed to be a sign of playfulness, but other bubble shapes are assumed to serve more functional purposes.
- Their pale color helps them survive. As belugas swim among the polar ice caps, their pigmentation is believed to act as camouflage to protect them from predators like killer whales and polar bears.
- Unlike most whales and dolphins, the vertebrae in a beluga’s neck is not fused together, allowing the creature to turn its head side-to-side and nod up and down.
- They can also swim backwards. This ability is quite unique among cetaceans. Their incredible maneuverability skills make up for their slow speeds of two to five miles per hour. But these whales can dive up to 800 meters in depth.
- They have plenty of blubber. Beluga whales have adapted to their arctic habitat by developing a thick layer of insulation. The blubber is 40% of their body weight.