What Does a Beluga Whale Eat?
What does a healthy beluga whale eat? It depends on the year, diet, and age. In captivity, whales will eat a variety of foods including pellets, flakes, mealworms, fish, yeast extracts, algae, seeds, nuts, insects, snails, worms, berries, fruits, seeds, grasses, flowers, seeds, berries, and other plant matter. Traditional Eskimos ate fish, meat, and small pieces of land. Why did they become scurvy?
Scientists believe that belugas were once ice-cold and hungry due to the scarcity of food and the extreme cold climate. At some point, a hungry blue whale became so disenchanted with its environment that it began eating the algae and lichen that covered the rocks on which it lived, along with any other algae or lichen that might have been there before. Eventually, the algae ate away at the whale’s fat making it more susceptible to disease. This became the foundation of modern whales’ unhealthy condition.
Scientists believe that belugas suffered even more severe nutritional deficiencies after leaving the Ice Age because their natural environment was dramatically different from what it is today. It is now possible to produce beluga whales in captivity, and it is possible to keep their natural diet while supplementing it with modern human-made foods. However, even with these new diets, the marine mammals remain malnourished and are unable to grow or reproduce. For this reason, it is no surprise that in captivity, the number of belugas has steadily dropped.
What does a beluga whale eat in captivity? Like all the other cetaceans, belugas eat meat – with the exception of algae, which they enjoy uncooked. These animals also enjoy fatty fish, which they like in large quantities, particularly mackerel and roosterfish, and although they enjoy the taste of fish in large quantities, they also enjoy plants: algae and lichens, which provide them with the vitamins and nutrients they need to survive.
In addition to what does a beluga whale eat in the wild, the animals also enjoy plant material. This means that they get most of their carbohydrates from algae and lichens in their natural environment, but they also obtain vitamin C and fatty acids from starches and grains. Because the lifestyle of an albino beluga is such that the animal must hunt to feed itself, scientists have had a difficult time determining whether the animals get enough carbohydrates from plant material in their diet or if they must rely on their bodies to provide the fuel for growth. Beluga whales do appear to be capable of growing their own body mass; their muscle mass is about twice that of the average human being. Belugas also appear to store fat more successfully than other whales, so it appears that at least some of their diet may come from stored fat.
In the wild, belugas consume fish, insects, small mammals, carrion, eggs, crustaceans, algae, etc. They can also consume fresh fish, but they seem to prefer meat over fresh fish in captivity (although it has not been proven conclusively). In fact, a beluga whale is one of the only species in the animal kingdom that is capable of eating both meat and plant matter. In fact, these animals are so capable of doing this that they have been studied in the wild for the past 40 years or more, in order to study their digestive processes. The study of these animals is important not only for understanding the evolution of whales, but for understanding why the animals behave the way they do.