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An over-whale-ming journey

Blue whale or Balaenoptera musculus is the largest mammal on planet Earth. The blue whale is the largest living animal globally, even larger than most prehistoric gargantuan beasts. Blue whales can measure around or over 100 ft in length and weigh more than 4,00,000 pounds (170000-180000 kilograms) at its largest. Also, their life-span is 80-90 years which gives them ample opportunities to grow.

Like other whales, the blue whale evolved from a four-legged mammal (Pakicetus). Paleontologists found the oldest relative of the blue whale, that lived on land somewhere around 48 million years ago. It was miniscule, standing at roughly 1.8 meters (6 feet) tall, compared to the whales that we witness today. It is believed that this creature foraged near water bodies, which eventually resulted them into becoming completely aquatic.

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In reality, everything about the blue whale is enormous. One such fascinating feature is a blue whale’s heart. A blue whale’s heart is the biggest on the planet, weighing as much as 400 pounds (170-180 kilograms). It is popularly known that a blue whale’s heart is as large as a Jeep or a Volkswagon. This has been proven to be slightly exaggerated by a Canadian research team in 2015, when they extracted, dissected and measured a whale heart. The heart is more of a size of a mini golf cart, at best, and still huge when you consider you can sit inside it.

Whales are known to be ‘conscious breathers’, which means they are alert about their breathing and can control it, just like humans. Whales travel thousands of kilometers during their migration season and continuously dive for 7-9 hours during feeding time. At times

they dive and hold their breath under water for 30 minutes to an hour. Being only one-hundredth of its body weight, a whale’s heart has to put up with extreme strain.

Heartbeat slows dramatically during dives. According to one study, a diving blue whale’s heart can slow down up to 4-6 beats per minute, a desperate measure to save oxygen. Surprisingly, between those beats, the heart keeps pumping blood. When a whale breaches surface to breathe, its heart races back to 25-37 beats a minute. Not only that, whale hearts are extremely loud machinery and heartbeats can be heard up to 3 kilometers away.

Blue Whale
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