They are known to be extremely social creatures that move in the freezing waters of the Arctic.
So the discovery of a lone eluga whale off the coast of Seattle, nearly 1,500 miles from its nearest population in Alaska, has scientists stunned.
The ‘very rare’ appearance of the wayward creature is the first documented sighting of a fluke whale in Puget Sound in more than 80 years.
The closest population of Ƅeluga whales is in Cook Inlet, Alaska, about 1,450 miles away.
Mystery: The discovery of a lone fluke whale off the coast of Seattle, nearly 1,500 miles from its nearest population in Alaska, has left scientists baffled (file image)
The closest Ƅeluga population is in Cook Inlet, Alaska, about 1,450 miles away from Seattle.
How Ƅeluga whales feel more comfortable in the waters of the Arctic Ocean
Belugas, also known as white whales, are known for having rounded foreheads and no dorsal fin.
Marine mammals feed on fish, crustaceans and worms.
Ranging from 13 to 20 feet in length, whales are common in the coastal waters of the Arctic Ocean.
But they migrate south in large herds when the sea freezes.
The whales, whose scientific name is Delphinapterus leucas, have an average lifespan in nature of 35 to 50 years, and weigh about a ton.
Experts are stumped as to how and why it ended up near Seattle, but the fact that it swam near three different shipyards has thrown up a theory.
“I don’t understand the attraction of a shipyard to a whale,” said Howard Garrett, co-founder of Orca Network, a nonprofit that raises awareness about whales in Puget Sound.
He told Liʋe Science: “I don’t know if that’s a clue, if that means he had been held captive in a shipyard somewhere in an occupied port, but we have no documents, no idea where that would be, certainly in the north.” . America.
Two years ago, another fluke whale made headlines when it appeared off the coast of Norway sporting a Russian harness and camera accessory, sparking speculation that it may have been acting as a spy for Moscow.
It was spotted by fishermen in April 2019 and again baffled experts because flukes are rarely seen this far south of the high Arctic.
An investigation was launched by Norway’s national intelligence agency, which deemed the whale to be “probably part of a Russian research program.”
However, there is no suggestion that Seattle Ƅeluga has anything to do with Kreмlin.
Secret Agent? Two years ago, another Ƅeluga whale made headlines when it appeared off the coast of Norway sporting a Russian harness and camera accessory (pictured), sparking speculation that it may have been acting as a spy for Moscow.
Garrett’s other thought is that he may be an enthusiastic globetrotter.
“Until we have any indication, my default theory is that this whale just decided to go for a walk, go explore,” he said.
‘I wanted to bring him. It is very unusual, but it happens from time to time with different populations [Ƅeluga]. So, not totally unprecedented, but definitely “very rare.”
The last recorded sighting of a fluke whale in Puget Sound was in 1940, he added.
There was also a report of a Ƅeluga in the sound in 2010, but only one person said they had seen it and they were unable to obtain photographic evidence.
One of the first reported sightings of this new fluke was on October 3, when it was seen swimming in Coencement Bay near Tacoma, about 30 miles (50 km) south of Seattle.
Jason Rogers of Bonney Lake, Washington, saw the whale and they flew away.
Beluga whales are extremely sociable and live, hunt and migrate together in pods, ranging from a few individuals to hundreds of whales (file image)
Experts believe it is in good health and say the fact that Puget Sound has plenty of squid, crabs and small fish, all part of an elluga’s staple diet, is a good sign.
The area is also home to other whales, including humpback and minke species, so the whale is not alone in that regard.
Belugas are white because it helps them stay camouflaged between the sea and the Arctic ice, as is the case with other animals native to the polar region.
They are extremely social and live, hunt and migrate together in pods, ranging from a few individuals to hundreds of whales. Its full forehead, called ‘elon’, is capable of changing shape and is used for communication and echolocation.
Scientists now hope to obtain more images of the whale in Seattle to compare it to other known nearby whales in an effort to identify where it came from.
The local branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is leading this analysis, while other whale and animal groups are also monitoring elements of the whale.
In the United Kingdom, a fluke whale was seen floating in the River Thames for several months between September and December 2018.
Nicknamed, ‘Welcome Benny’, he attracted crowds of people to the ridge in the hope of catching a glimpse of him, and foraged regularly along the Kent stretch of the Thames.
The Port of London Authority said Benny almost certainly went home in January 2019.
WHY DO SOME SPECIES GO THROUGH MENOPAUSE?
Few animals are known to experience menopause, and most species reproduce until they die.
Along with humans; 𝓀𝒾𝓁𝓁er whales, 𝓀𝒾𝓁𝓁er whales, short-finned pilot whales, Ƅeluga whales, and narwhals have perfected the trait.
Menopause is usually triggered when animals experience hormonal changes that cause them to stop wanting to reproduce.
The researchers suggest that this physiological ‘off switch’ is useful in species that spend most of their lives caring for their offspring.
In 𝓀𝒾𝓁𝓁er whales, for example, male and female calves stay with their mothers for life, as well as grandparents.
The mother is in charge of searching for food, and if she continued to have offspring, her direct descendants would have to compete for resources.