The blue whale, the largest animal on Earth, has always fascinated and intrigued people due to its incredible size. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into various aspects of the blue whale size, answering common questions and making comparisons to familiar objects to help you better understand just how massive these gentle giants truly are. From their length and weight to specific body parts and even their surprising vocal abilities, we’ll explore every facet of the blue whale’s colossal dimensions.
1. Blue Whale Size: Defining “Biggest”
When discussing blue whale size or any other animal, the term “biggest” is often used to describe their overall dimensions. But what exactly does “biggest” mean? In the context of the animal kingdom, “biggest” typically refers to an animal’s weight. Scientists have agreed upon this standard as the primary determining factor for comparing the size of different animals.
For instance, elephants are considered the largest land animals due to their massive weight. If body length or height were the deciding factors, then creatures like giraffes or large pythons would be classified as “bigger” than elephants. Therefore, in discussing blue whale size, we will focus primarily on their weight, as well as other relevant dimensions.
2. Length: Just How Long are Blue Whales?
The longest blue whale ever measured by scientists was an astonishing 110 feet (33.5 meters) long. However, most blue whales typically fall between 70 and 90 feet in length (21-27 meters). For the sake of comparison, we will use the average length of 90 feet (27 meters) when comparing blue whale size to other objects and animals.
2.1 Comparing Blue Whale Length to Familiar Objects
To better understand the immense length of a blue whale, let’s compare it to some everyday objects:
- A blue whale is longer than two standard school buses, which can seat up to 40 people each. That means around 80 people could theoretically hang out on a blue whale, though the whale would likely not appreciate the intrusion.
- With a length equal to six midsize passenger cars, the next time you’re stuck in traffic, try counting six cars ahead to visualize a blue whale’s impressive length.
- Lining up 26 standard baseball bats end to end would equal the length of a blue whale, as would the height of 15 grown men (6 feet/1.8 meters each).
3. Weight: The Heft of a Blue Whale
While their length is certainly impressive, the blue whale’s weight is what truly sets them apart. Adult blue whales weigh between 100-150 tons (200,000-300,000 pounds/90,700-136,000 kilograms). To put this into perspective, the African bush elephant, the largest living land animal, weighs a mere 7 tons (14,000 pounds/63,000 kilograms). An adult blue whale can weigh as much as 14-21 adult African elephants combined!
3.1 Weight Comparison: Everyday Objects vs. Blue Whale Size
Let’s compare the weight of a blue whale to some familiar objects:
- It would take approximately 85 midsize cars to equal the weight of a blue whale.
- A blue whale weighs as much as eight large school buses.
- Imagine 1,000 200-pound (90 kilogram) men – that’s the equivalent weight of a blue whale.
4. The Blue Whale Heart: Size and Facts
Internet sources often claim that a blue whale’s heart is the size of a small car and weighs over 1,300 pounds (590 kilograms). While it’s true that a blue whale’s heart is enormous, comparing it to a small car is an exaggeration.
In 2015, scientists preserved the heart of a 76-foot (23 meters) female blue whale that had drowned after becoming trapped beneath ice. This allowed researchers to study the heart, which weighed about 400 pounds (181 kilograms) – still massive, but not quite as heavy as some sources suggest.
4.1 Comparing a Blue Whale’s Heart to a Human
The preserved blue whale heart measures roughly 5 feet by 4 feet by 5 feet (1.5 meters by 1.2 meters by 1.5 meters), giving it a basic volume of 100 cubic feet (2.8 cubic meters). This is roughly equivalent to the interior of many modern midsize cars, meaning you could potentially fit five or six adults inside the space. However, we strongly advise against attempting to host a dinner party inside a blue whale’s heart.
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5. Blue Whale Calves: The World’s Biggest Babies
Female blue whales give birth to a single calf every 2-3 years. At birth, these calves already weigh an astounding 3 tons (6,000 pounds/2,721 kilograms) and measure between 23 and 25 feet (7-7.6 meters) long.
5.1 Size Comparison: Blue Whale Calves vs. Other Animals
Blue whale calves are the largest babies in the animal kingdom, and their size is comparable to that of an adult orca. They also outweigh the average American car by over 2,000 pounds and are as long as an ambulance. During their nursing period, blue whale calves gain about 250 pounds (115 kilograms) per day, equivalent to adding the mass of a large adult man, such as Dwayne Johnson or Arnold Schwarzenegger, to their weight daily.
6. Sound: How Loud is a Blue Whale?
Despite their solitary nature, blue whales need to communicate across vast distances to find mates. As a result, they are the second loudest animals on Earth, capable of producing sounds over 188 decibels – louder than jet engines, which reach up to 150 decibels. Blue whales’ vocalizations may be heard hundreds of miles/kilometers away, though scientists are still unsure of the exact range of their communication abilities.
Interestingly, the sperm whale holds the title for the loudest animal, producing sounds over 230 decibels – enough to stun prey and potentially cause temporary paralysis in divers.
7. Speed: How Fast is a Blue Whale?
While blue whales lack breakneck speeds, their top speed of 31 miles per hour (50 kilometers per hour) is still impressive considering their immense size. Their typical traveling speed is around 12 miles per hour (20 kilometers), slowing to about 5 miles per hour (8 kilometers per hour) when feeding.
7.1 Speed Comparison: Blue Whales vs. Other Cetaceans and Humans
In terms of speed, blue whales are faster than some other cetaceans, such as the humpback whale, which reaches speeds of about 17 miles per hour (27 kilometers per hour), and the bottlenose dolphin, which can reach 17 miles per hour (21 kilometers per hour). To put this in human terms, the world record for Olympic swimming speed, set in 2014 by Florent Manaudou, was approximately 5.5 miles per hour (8.8 kilometers per hour). A blue whale can swim nearly six times faster than the best human swimmers in the world.
8. Diet: How Much Do Blue Whales Eat?
Feeding on tiny crustaceans called krill, blue whales consume an astonishing 8,000 pounds (3,600 kilograms) of food per day. They capture their prey by scooping up massive mouthfuls of water and filtering the krill through bristle-like structures called baleen.
8.1 Weight Comparison: Blue Whale Food vs. Human Food
To help visualize how much a blue whale eats, let’s compare it to some common human foods:
- 8,000 pounds is equivalent to 32,000 quarter-pound hamburger patties, enough for a person to eat a hamburger every day for the next 87 years.
- Alternatively, it is equal to 12,800 10-ounce steaks, enough for one steak dinner every night for 35 years.
In short, a blue whale consumes in a single day what would take a human years to eat.
9. Aorta: Can a Human Swim Through a Blue Whale’s Aorta?
Many sources claim that a blue whale’s aorta, the main artery that pumps oxygenated blood throughout the body, is large enough for an adult human to swim through. Is this true?
9.1 Size Comparison: A Human vs. a Blue Whale’s Aorta
While a blue whale’s aorta is indeed enormous, it is not large enough for a human to swim through. An adult human could fit their head inside the aorta, but not the rest of their body. The idea of swimming through a whale’s arteries remains purely fantastical.
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10. Other Fascinating Blue Whale Size Comparisons
Finally, let’s explore the size of other specific body parts and aspects of blue whales:
10.1 Blue Whale Eyes
Surprisingly, blue whales have relatively small eyes compared to their body size, measuring about the size of a small grapefruit or softball. This suggests that their eyesight may be relatively weak, as they rely more on other senses.
10.2 Blue Whale Poop
Blue whale feces are not solid but rather a chunky liquid that forms a bright orange cloud in the water, almost as long as the whale itself. The color is due to the krill shells in their diet.
10.3 Blue Whale Reproductive Organs
As expected, blue whales have the largest penises in the animal kingdom, with the biggest on record measuring 16 feet (5 meters) long and weighing over 150 pounds (68 kilograms). However, little research has been conducted on blue whale vaginas, but it is safe to assume they are also quite large, considering the size of their offspring.
The blue whale’s size is undeniably awe-inspiring, and understanding their dimensions helps us appreciate the true magnificence of these gentle giants. By comparing their size to familiar objects and animals, we can begin to grasp the scale of their massive bodies and the incredible feats they accomplish daily as they traverse the world’s oceans.