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Whale Watching on the South Beach!

Did you Know

Communication

Whales communicate with each other by "vocalizing," or making sounds. Since sound travels five times faster under water than through air, scientists suspect that their ability to vocalize is a major asset when it comes to navigating and avoiding danger.

Diet

The diet of the Gray whale is mainly composed of bottom-dwelling amphipods, isopods, polychaete worms, mollusks, and other invertebrates. The gammarid amphipod, Ampelisca macrocephala, is most likely the most commonly eaten prey. Gray whales feed primarily during the summer months of long daylight hours in the cold Arctic waters of the Bering and Chukchi seas. To feed, the whale dives to the sea floor, turns on its side (usually to the right), and swims forward along the bottom of the sea, forcing its head through the top layer of sediment along the sea floor. It is there that the whale scoops up its invertebrate prey as well as gravel and mud, leaving a trail behind. The whale then surfaces, straining the sediment through the baleen, which permits only the food to remain in the mouth to be swallowed. The two longitudinal grooves of the throat can stretch open and allow the mouth to expand during feeding, permitting the animal to take in more food. During the entire feeding season the whales must store up enough fat to fast during the breeding season. Then by the time the whales return to their feeding ground, they have lost up to one-third of their body weight. Even though the whale feed mainly during the months spent in the Arctic waters, they may feed if the opportunity arises at other times during the year.

Reproduction

Gray whales reach sexual maturity between 5-11 years of age when they typically reach 40ft in length. Mating has been noted at all times of the year with most conceptions occurring within a three week period during the southward migration, with females in the late stages of their pregnancies leading the way. Mating has also been observed in the lagoons of Baja California. December 5th is usually the peak of the mating season for gray whales. Courtship and mating behavior are complex, and frequently involve 3 or more whales at the same time.

Gestation is 12-13 months with calves weighing 1500lbs, which are about 15ft at birth. Calves nurse 7-8 months on 53% fat rich milk (human milk is 2% fat). Gray whales usually bear a single calf about every 2 years. Calves are nursed for around 7 months, during which time they gain motor coordination and establish the mother-calf bond that is needed to keep them together on the migration northward. They are then weaned in the north in the feeding grounds. Gray whales average life span is about 50 years with one individual recorded as 77 years old.

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