By now we have all heard about the Beluga whale that has appeared in the River Thames. If you haven’t, where have you been? It is supposedly pretty happy here, perhaps on vacation to see the sights. And, whilst it may seem like a silly whale to stray so far from its normal territory, Beluga whales are actually very unique and intelligent creatures. Do you want some fun facts about them? Of course you do. So here are five.
1. Belugas are one of only four species, other than humans, whose females experience menopause.
Most other species are able to reproduce until they die. No hot flushes for them. But the Beluga, killer and short-finned pilot whales, alongside humans and narwhals, all go through ‘the change’. Scientists think this is because, if they continue to reproduce, their children will compete against each other for food, as they stay with their mothers all their life.
2. Beluga whales are excellent divers.
Lasting up to 25 minutes long, a dive from the whale can even reach a depth of up to 800 metres. Rather you than me Beluga!
This diver is no match for the Beluga
3. They can swim backward.
Quite unusual amongst sealife, the Beluga can swim backwards. Although not as threatening as the shark that could do the same in the thriller ‘Deep Blue Sea’, this ability does make up for their slow speed (of only two - five miles per hour).
4. They have another name besides Beluga.
Due to being one of the most vocal of all the whales, they are often referred to as ‘sea canaries’. Their rich and varied vocal range has also been known to reach through the hulls of ships. Being very social, they can also live in ‘pods’ with up to 100 members. That must get pretty noisy!
5. Belugas like bubbles.
As well as being fabulous vocalists, the whales are also experts at forming bubbles for communication. A study of 44 captivate Belugas revealed that bubbles released slowly are a sign of playfulness, released suddenly are a defensive reaction, and released in tandem with a partner whale are a sign of social bonding.
The Belugas are traditional whales. The rest prefer to communicate by phone