The largest animal to have ever existed is not some prehistoric beast but rather the humble Blue Whale. This huge mammal can be found in many of the World’s oceans, particularly in polar regions.
How big can it get?
Growing up to 30 metres (100 feet) in length and weighing as much as 150 tons, it is larger than a jumbo jet. Its tongue alone tips the scales at 3 tons and is large enough to hold up to 90 tons of food and water.
What does it eat?
Shrill, and lots of it – up to 40 million, or 7 tons, of the shrimp-like crustaceans actually. Dieters look away now; the blue whale has a daily dietary requirement of 1.5 million kilocalories! It also snacks on other marine life although it can swallow nothing larger than a beach ball.
How does it hunt?
With such a healthy appetite, the blue whale has to eat on-the-go. It can open its mouth and take in water and food which is then processed by a comb-like filter (baleen plates) ensuring it only dines on the choicest cuts.
How dangerous is it?
Not very. The blue whale is passive and offers little threat to anything besides the krill it swallows. Its size deters other predators meaning it rarely has to fight.
How many are left?
Estimates suggest that as few as 5,000 blue whales may exist today. Whalers wiped out huge numbers in the first half of the twentieth century before whaling was made illegal in 1966. Recent estimates suggest the population is on the rise though.
These behemoths can live up to 90 years with females giving birth every two to three years. New-born calves are the size of a fully-grown hippo and can drink as much as 100 gallons of mother’s milk a day.