Blue Whale

 Sounds of Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus)


Close-up of the head of a blue whale, showing two blow holes. Tom Kieckhefer

These bluish gray whales are the largest living mammals, reaching as long as 30.5 m (100 ft) and weighing 160 tons. Feeding mostly on krill with the use of baleen plates, these animals can consume four tons of krill per day during the peak summer feeding season! Blue whales are found along or offshore of the continental shelf in all parts of the ocean. Blue whales produce long, multi-part vocalizations that include long pulses, buzzes, and rasps. These vocalizations are typically in the 15-40 Hz range, often below the threshold of human hearing. Even though blue whale calls are generally the same, there are distinct geographic variations that might help scientists distinguish separate populations. Scientists currently use blue whale vocalizations to study their distribution. How blue whales use their vocalizations is not known for certain, but the calls could possibly aid in long-distance communication or navigation.

Side view of a blue whale, showing the mottled coloration pattern on its body and its small dorsal fin. Photo courtesy of Thomas Jefferson

Additional Links on DOSITS

Additional Resources


  • McDonald, M. A., Calambokidis, J., Teranishi, A. M., & Hildebrand, J. A. (2001). The acoustic calls of blue whales off California with gender data. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 109(4), 1728–1735.
  • Mellinger, D. K., & Clark, C. W. (2003). Blue whale ( Balaenoptera musculus ) sounds from the North Atlantic. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 114(2), 1108–1119.
  • Richardson, W. J., Green, C. R., Malme, C. I. J., & Thomson, D. H. (1995). Marine Mammals and Noise. San Diego: Academic Press.
  • Stafford, K. M., Nieukirk, S. L., & Fox, C. G. (2001). Geographic and seasonal variation of blue whale calls in the North Pacific. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management, 3(1), 65–76.