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Gray Whales




Adopt a Gray Whale

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The Whale Research Lab
University of Victoria

Color a Whale

Gray Whales in 
San Ignacio Lagoon

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The Birth of a 
Gray Whale
Monterey

The gray whale family name is  Eschrichtius robustus, with  a funny scientific sub-classification;  Cetacea Mysticeti, with Mysticeti meaning mustache!  This is because gray whales don't have teeth, but rather baleen that are fibers inside their mouths used to filter the smallest ocean creatures out of the water. They have also been known as California Gray Whale, Devilfish, Mussel-digger, and Scrag Whale. They are a fairly large whale with many short baleen rows,  a narrow head and no dorsal fin  Most have crustaceans growing on their backs. The gray is a mammal like you and I, it bears its babies live, breathes air, has warm blood, has some hair and nurses its young. And the gray whale has two blowholes.  A female gray can grow from 35 to 50 feet and weigh as much as 30 - 35 tons while the male is smaller at 46 feet and 14 tons. The largest gray whale ever recorded was 51 feet long and weighed 39 tons.  They are usually a blotchy gray with patches of light and darker colors.

The whale comes to the surface to breath. but it can  stay underwater for up to 15 minutes before running out of air. Air is expelled through the blowholes on the its back, creating a spout.  Grays are curious and often playful in their movements.  Breaching is when the whale leaps almost clear of the water and falls back with a splash.  Sounding is the term for showing it's flukes or  tail.  Spyhopping is when the whale propels itself vertically upward out of the water until it can see and can last from 10 to 30 seconds.. 

  The whale spends the summer and the early fall months in the arctic waters of the Chukchi and Bearing Seas feeding off bottom sediment before heading south to breed and for warmer waters.  In the late fall, the whales start their 5000 mile migration south to Baja California, one of the longest trips for mammals. There are now over 23,000 gray whales passing by the west coast of the United States in December and January on their southern migration and going north in March and April .

The gray's diet consists of tubeworms and sessile polychaetes  that live in sediment on the ocean floor. In the shallower waters, the whale will dive down for 3 to 5 minutes and bump the bottom, creating clouds of food rich sediment which it scoops up with it's mouth.  It then expels the water through the baleen in its mouth, leaving behind its dinner, which it promptly swallows!  A trail of dents in the ocean floor is left behind . While migrating the Gray will feed at the surface on small fish and mysids (Acanthomysis sculpta) amphipods which are tiny shrimp- like creatures

The female gray whale usually produce offspring every 2 to 3 years after a gestation period of 12 to 13 months.  Another female gray whale helps the mother when the calf is born, she's the auntie, .  The shallow lagoons of Baja California provide the perfect nursery for the newborn calf, which weighs about 1,500 pounds and is about 15 feet long.   The mother whale's milk is 53% fat, which is 10 times richer than cow's milk and necessary for the calf to build up blubber for the long migration north.  They are weaned at about eight months, after the trip back.  The calf must get in shape before the long trip north and swims against the lagoon currents to develop its swimming muscles.  By the time the whales leave the lagoons the calves are about 19 feet long, and weigh about 3,000 pounds.

The enemies and hunters of the gray whale are man, sharks and killer whales

Gray Whales Whale
Watching
Dolphins Coral
Reefs
Fish Exploration Oceans Davey
Jones


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