Female beluga whales become sexually mature before males, at 4-7 years, and reproduce every 2-3 years until about 20 years of age.
Beluga whale calves are able to swim alongside their mothers from birth but are totally dependent on them for the first year of life.
Beluga whales have a loose, fatty region on top of their head, called a melon, that is critical for echolocation.
Beluga whales deliver their offspring in river mouths because the waters are warmer for their calves that lack fully developed blubber.
Male beluga whales live longer than females at about 40 years compared to 32 years and belugas in captivity live longer than those in the wild.
Only 5-10% of a beluga whale’s time is spent at the surface of the water and they are rarely seen breaching.
Beluga whales are among the most vocal species of cetaceans and use their vocalizations for echolocation, mating, and communication.
Beluga whales have the most varied diet of any small whale feeding on over 100 species of fish and invertebrates, and their diet changes depending on season, location, and water temperature.
Predation from killer whales, polar bears, and humans, as well as ice entrapment, are common causes of premature death of beluga whales.
Humans used to hunt beluga whales for skin, food, and oil, but now look to them for ecotourism and entertainment.
Beluga whales have a very acute hearing, especially at higher frequencies, and can hear as well at 300m underwater as they can above water.
Unlike other cetaceans that continuously replace skin, beluga whales undergo an annual epidermal molt and rub in estuaries to remove old skin and become more hydrodynamic.
Beluga whales are the only whales capable of shaping their tongue and lips, a skill which they use to capture prey by suction and swallow it whole.
The beluga whale has skin 10-100x thicker than other animals, and 50% of its body weight is made up of blubber in order to keep it warm in the freezing waters of the Arctic.
Beluga whales have good vision, both, above and below the water, but most likely do not see much color, if any at all.
Beluga whales mate from February-April and swim in harmony during courtship with the female swimming underneath the male, belly to belly.
Beluga whales have unihemispheric brain waves when they sleep, meaning that one hemisphere of the cerebrum is always active allowing for surfacing to breath.
Beluga whales are sexually dimorphic, with the males being slightly larger than the females.
The beluga whale is listed as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List, and current populations are estimated at 60,000-100,000.
Beluga whales can migrate freely between salt and fresh water, an ability that other cetaceans do not have.
Beluga whales are playful, social creatures and normally migrate, hunt, and interact in fluid groups of dozens to thousands.
As a result of climate, beluga whales vary in size between different populations, with 50% of their weight being fat, more than other whales, whose body is only 20% fat.
The beluga whale is the only entirely white whale species and derives its name from the Russian word for “white,” “belukha”.
Beluga whales are nicknamed “sea canaries” for their loud, bird-like high-frequency levels.
The beluga whale is the only species of whale that is entirely white, but they are born gray and gradually fade to white with age.
Beluga whales are the most abundant of arctic cetaceans, and inhabit 8-10°C inlets, fjords, channels, bays, and shallow waters.
Young, female, teenage beluga whales in nuresery pods take on a nursemaid role throughout May-July when calves are born.
Beluga whales are the only living member of the genus, Delphinapterus, meaning “dolphin without a fin,” as they have a shallow ridge along the back, instead of a dorsal fin.
Unlike other cetaceans whose neck vertebrae are fused, the beluga whale has a flexible neck to allow for maneuvering as it hunts or escapes from predators.
Beluga whales use their teeth to grasp prey, rather than for cutting or chewing, and the number of teeth varies with sex and age.
Beluga whale development is not completely known, but gestation is known to last 14 months.