Depending on the species the thickness of the blubber can vary dramatically from 1 inch up to 11 inches thick.
While the thickness of the blubber can play a role in determining what climates a marine mammal can comfortably live in the blubbers lipid concentration is much more important for maintaining body heat than how thick the layer of blubber is.
The higher the lipid concentration is in a whale’s blubber the better it is at maintaining body heat while the higher the water concentration is the less effective the blubber is at insulating internal heat.
As stated earlier the use of blubber is extremely important for keeping vital organs warm and functioning properly, especially since whales live in the ocean which can be thermodynamically several times colder than air.
This becomes even more apparent in the coldest regions of the world such as the Arctic and Antarctic waters.
In addition to keeping whales warm blubber can also be used as an energy source for certain species such as the blue whale which uses its blubber for energy when it makes long migration trips during the mating/feeding seasons.
During these long trips the blue whale may fast for several months living solely off of its fat stores.
Blubber provides marine mammals with several important benefits that help them survive and thrive in their harsh ocean environments.
Here are four primary benefits blubber offers marine mammals such as whales:
Buoyancy – Possessing blubber allows marine mammals such as whales to become more buoyant in the ocean.
This is extremely important given the fact that some whales can grow to weigh over 150 tons.
The combination of saltwater and thick blubber helps these marine mammals rise to the surface with much less effort and remain buoyant during periods of rest and inactivity.
Note: all species of whale live in saltwater oceans, however there are a handful of dolphin species that are known to reside in freshwater habitats.
Energy – As stated earlier some whales will forgo eating during migration trips where food resources are low and they need to get to their location as quickly as possible
During this fasting state a whale can use significant amounts of blubber in order to maintain its energy during migration.
The use of their blubber can also help them shed excessive fat as they begin to approach warmer climates where they’ll spend their months mating.
While not often mentioned the reduction in body fat may make their stay in the warmer climates more comfortable and manageable.
Insulation – Blubber provides a barrier between the whales internal organs and the cold/freezing waters that surrounds them.
This insulation is what keeps whales from freezing and suffering internal damage while they inhibit some of the coldest places on earth.
Protection – In addition to the benefits listed above its possible that blubber may also help a whale defend itself from predators that have a hard time penetrating the thick layer of blubber.
From a cultural stand point whale blubber is considered a popular food source for certain Inuit people of the Arctic as well as other regions of the world due to its nutrients, however it is often recommended that caution must be taken in the consumption of whale blubber due to the toxins it contains.
While whale blubber is high in omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D it also contains tissue damaging toxins that can be extremely harmful to humans, especially when large amounts of blubber are consumed.
In most of the world whaling is considered illegal and those hunting marine mammals could be subject to legal discipline, however the enforcement of illegal poaching is often dependent upon the location they hunt as those who monitor it are most likely the ones to carry out these laws.
Some counties do allow for limited hunting of certain whale species based on stock numbers and the cultural significance of whale hunting in the area or among certain groups.
Those who carry a long ancestral history may be allowed to continue practicing whale hunting in order to maintain their ancestral heritage.
While the act of whaling is now prohibited in most parts of the world it was at one point a significant source of revenue during the industrial age.
During the whaling era whale blubber served numerous uses in the commercial industry.
It was often used as a chemical in transmission oils, as an additive in candles and oil based lamps (due to its ability to burn without leaving a nasty smell), as an ingredient in high quality leathers, as a common chemical for making soaps, bleaches and various cosmetics, in margarine and other cooking oils and in a variety of other chemical based products.
Today however the commercial use of whale blubber has been largely outlawed due to the endangered status of many whale species, which was caused by significant whaling efforts during the 17th – 20th centuries.
Alternative resources have also rendered whale oil much less important in the creation of various chemical based products.
Although whale hunting has been outlawed in many countries some people and companies still hunt whales and sell their meat for a profit.
As mentioned previously whales may also be killed because of the traditional significance associated with the practice of whaling by a particular culture and the strong historical heritage and bonds that are developed by continuing this practice.
This form of hunting is considered by some to be more ethical or acceptable as it is not focused on profits but on maintaining cultural heritage and ancestral practices.
Lastly, whales may occasionally be hunted for research purposes in order to better learn about a particular species, gather information on potential threats and to gather other research data.
The purpose of this type of hunting is to focus on ways to improve the overall survival status of the whale species, however certain groups may take advantage of this loophole in order to fulfill their own agendas.