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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Long backs and tiny fins

If you've followed previous posts on this blog, you know that I'm often drawn to very small things sea star larvae and other microscopic animals, for example.  But other times my heart beats faster when in the presence of very large things like Blue Whales (Balaenoptera musculus)!

Fun fact: Blue Whales are the largest animals to have lived on Earth.  At maturity they measure about 88-108 feet (27-33 meters) in length and about 330,000 pounds (165 tons).

About an hour and a half after we left Bodega Harbor yesterday on our way to Bodega Canyon, we encountered 2-3 Blue Whales.  

The spouts of Blue Whales are powerful and may reach ~ 9 meters (30 feet) high.  Here are two examples:

In the image below, you can see the "splashguard" surrounding the blowhole.  It looks like a prominent mound or ridge at the bottom of the spout.

After a few blows, the backs of the whales appeared.  Blue Whale backs are very long, very smooth, and mottled with splotches of darker and lighter gray.

A distinctive feature in Blue Whales is the diminutive dorsal fin.  Look for it at the far right end of the back (just emerging from the water) in the next photo.

The current estimate for the Blue Whale population off the California/Mexico coast is only ~2000 individuals.  Here's hoping that the population continues to recover.

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