What is the lifespan of blue whales? A question with an answer, as it turns out. Though many people think that this great animal lives in the cold waters of Antarctica, it actually travels all around the world. And like many of its kind, it has a very long life span: some have estimated a lifespan of more than half a century!
The blue whale is a member of the baleen whales parvorder, distinguished by its streamlined, conical shape. It is the second most popular whale species, behind only the blue dolphin. Reaching a average length of almost 29 feet and weighing up to 200 tons, it is probably the largest living animal known to man. It is a very specialized species which has evolved specifically to take advantage of its environment: it has evolved to live in large groups, called pods, which can number hundreds or even thousands. These pods travel together for the winter, which means they do not come together until April and must stay on shore to keep body temperatures at a low level.
Blue whales reach their maximum size in age, at almost 28 feet and over two thousand pounds. As they age, they grow slightly larger, but remain surprisingly small for their age. Their growth rate slows as they get older, but some individual populations continue to grow, even when reproductive capacity has declined. The largest known female blue whale was over seventeen thousand pounds! And the second largest female whale was also over fifteen thousand pounds.
When a blue whale reaches the ripe old age of twenty five to thirty years, its reproductive abilities start to decline, so that a new pod can arrive on the scene. For example, the most successful pod at the age of twenty five to thirty years was a single female and one male; the second best group was a single male and one female. After this period of time, however, the new pods begin to arrive.
The average lifespan of blue whales is somewhere around fourteen years. When it comes to reproductive capacities, reproductive rates are much less for blue whales than any other species of whale. This has led some to conclude that reproductive habits may have something to do with the lengthening of the blue whales lifespan. It has also been proposed that blue whales have an incredibly fast metabolism, which could account for their large size relative to other whales.
Although some researchers believe that the slower reproductive rate is because of the harsh conditions the whales live in, there are other possibilities. One possibility is that the slower rate of growth is because of the lack of food available to them. Since food is much easier to find in the southern hemisphere, the whales need to travel much farther to find it, which would greatly reduce their lifespan. Whatever the case, however, the record of the shortest lived whales still stands, at least for now.