The pygmy blue whale is a subspecies of the blue whale which was first identified in 1966.
This whale has several distinct features that separate it from the blue whale which include a larger head, shorter tail and shorter baleen plates when compared to the blue whale.
Measuring in at around 70 – 80 ft. long the pygmy blue whale also happens to be slightly small than the larger blue whale, which can reach lengths of up to 100 ft. long when fully matured.
Physical Characteristics and Appearance
As stated above the pygmy blue whale measures in at a maximum length of around 80 ft, long while its close relative the blue whale can grow to lengths of up to 100 ft. long.
When it comes to physical features the pygmy blue whale has a large head when compared to the rest of its body and the shorter tail gives the whale a tadpole like shape.
While the pygmy blue whale has shorter baleen plates than the blue whale the baleen plates are broader in order to accommodate the pygmy blue whales larger head.
As with other baleen whale species these marine mammals aren’t born with teeth.
Instead their baleen plates have bristles that allow them to filter prey through from the water as they swim.
Once they’ve captured enough prey in their mouth their tongue is used to push out the excess water while their bristles acts like a filter by keeping their prey from escaping as the water leaves their mouth.
Being part of the blue whale family the pygmy blue whale appears blue when it is submerged underwater, however when it rises the skin tone appears closer to a grayish blue color rather than a deep blue.
Diet and Hunting Methods
Like their slightly larger blue whale relatives the pygmy blue whale has a diet that consists primarily of krill.
On occasion pygmy blue whales may end up consuming small benthic prey or fish when hunting for krill and use the same filter feeding techniques as other baleen whales to capture their prey.
Their hunting methods are also similar to the larger blue whale.
Hunting for food involves lunging towards large swarms of krill and capturing as many small krill as possible in their mouth.
They then push the water out of their mouth using their tongue and swallow their prey whole.
Habitat and Migration
The pygmy blue whale can be found primarily in tropical waters throughout the Indian and south pacific oceans.
They can also be found spending their time breeding in the South Atlantic Ocean and feeding in the Antarctic.
When it comes to their migration behavior the migration patterns of these marine mammals can vary from one area to the next.
Some pygmy blue whale populations will migrate seasonally while others are more likely to inhibit a particular area throughout the year.
Social Structure and Communication
While not much is known about the pygmy blue whales social structure it is believed the pygmy blue whale is a solitary animal much like the blue whale and prefers to travel alone or in small pods.
Also like their blue whale relative the pygmy blue whale communicates using loud low-pitched sounds that can be heard miles away.
Although these marine mammals are fairly solitary larger groups of pygmy blue whales may be found gathered together during mating or feeding periods to mate and bare offspring or hunt for food where large concentrations of prey can be found.
Reproduction and Lifespan
Little is known about the breeding habits of the pygmy blue whale; however there is some information that has been collected on this species.
As with the blue whale the average gestation period for the pygmy blue whale lasts around 10 – 12 months.
After birth the adult female whale will raise her young for up to a year before the newborn is able to fully leave the mother and survive on its own.
While raising her offspring the mother will nurse her child and feed it nutrient rich milk from her nipple until it is able to hunt for its own food.
It is assumed that the pygmy blue whale reaches sexual maturity between the ages of 5 – 15 where it can begin breeding and baring offspring of its own.
It is estimated that female whales breed a single offspring once every 2-3 years while fertile.
The lifespan of the pygmy blue whale remains unconfirmed, however if these marine mammals have a similar lifespan to the blue whale then it is possible that a healthy pygmy blue whale may live for 70 – 90 years.
The pygmy blue whale may face occasional threats from whalers or poachers looking to sell their meat, however these attacks are extremely rare and their have been no major cases of these whales being attacked in recent years.
These whales may also face occasional threats from being struck by ships or getting caught in fishing nets and drowning, but these are also very rare.
In more recent years common threats for many species of whale include water pollution from oil spills, garbage and other human factors, noise pollution from loud jet engines, explosives and boating equipment and over fishing which can affect whales living in highly competitive fishing environments.
5 Engaging pygmy blue whale facts
1) The pygmy blue whale was once confused for a small blue whale, however in 1966 observations of the whale led to a new name/subspecies and description based on differing characteristics between these marine mammals and their larger blue whale relatives.
2) The pygmy blue whale is known for its loud majestic whale songs which appear to only be performed by the male whales.
While the exact meaning for these sounds is unknown it is assumed that these call are used to locate potential mating partners.
3) In spite of their large size these marine mammals consume small krill which measure between 0.4 and 6 inches in length, however most krill measure less than 1 inch long.
4) While the pygmy blue whale primarily gives birth to a single offspring on rare instances they may also give birth to twins.
5) When fully grown the pygmy blue whale is 10% – 30% smaller than the blue whale.