By Amelia Meyer
Scientific Name: Delphinapterus Leucas
Other Names: Sea Canary, White Whale, Belukha.
The Beluga Whale is made distinct from other cetacean species by its white colouring. It is also known for its vocalisations. In fact, this is one of the most vocal of all the toothed whales, making a variety of clicks, squeaks, moos and other sounds in its communication with others of its kind. The Beluga usually lives quite close to the shore and is adept at manoeuvring in very shallow waters. This is a toothed whale with an average of 20 teeth at the top and 18 on the bottom.
Naturally, the very light colouring of the Beluga Whale is its most obvious identifying feature. Its rough skin is particularly susceptible to scarring (often caused by Polar Bear attacks), which can be used to identify individuals.
Their heads are proportionally small for their robust bodies with a distinct melon and a very short beak. Belugas do not have a dorsal fin, but have a dorsal ridge instead. Their posterior fins are broad and spoon-shaped to allow for easier movement in the water, although they are, generally, slow swimmers. The trailing edges of their flukes (or tail fins) are sometimes dark brown in colour. The Beluga Whale adult reaches a length of between three and five metres (or 9.5 to 16.5 feet) in length and can weigh up to 1.5 tonnes.
Although they are not acrobatic, the Beluga Whales do tend to spyhop and lobtail quite frequently. Spyhopping is done so that they can satisfy their curiosity and peep at human onlookers out of the water. They spend most of their lives near the surface of their icy ocean homes, diving down to shallow depths about five times per minute. Thereafter, they will embark on a deeper dive, which can last a full minute, but never much longer.
The Beluga is a social whale and generally travels in pods of between five and 20 individuals.
Where to Find Them
The Beluga Whale lives in the icy waters of the Arctic, concentrating on the areas closer to land. They are commonly found on the Scandinavian, Russian, Greenlandic and North American coasts. Summers are spent in shallow bays, while winters are spent in areas with loose pack-ice so that there are many places at which to surface for air. However, they do not migrate much, if at all. During the summer, groups numbering into the thousands might be found at river mouths, making for an incredible sight for spectators.
The Beluga Whale lives mainly on small fish, but will also dine on crustaceans and squid. Its ability to enter into very shallow waters allows the Beluga Whale to pursue prey into areas in which other cetaceans cannot enter, giving it a distinct advantage in this respect.
Because the Beluga Whale stays close to the shore, it is susceptible to human disturbance and pollution, as well as a loss of natural habitat. In addition, they are the victims of whale hunters, who want their meat and blubber.