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The Big Blue Whale and its tiny food source, Krill

Category: Animal Facts and Photos

Published: Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Blue Whale and Its Position In The Food Chain

The blue whale is the largest animal currently living on the planet, and is thought to be the heaviest animal that has ever existed. Blue whales are truly magnificent creatures
, and the list of records that they top is truly mind boggling. Their hearts weigh as much as a standard car, their tongues weigh as much as an elephant. Despite their whopping size, however, the blue whale feasts on some of the smallest marine life in the food chain: krill. Krill are tiny invertebrate that are just 6cm long and bear an uncanny resemblance to shrimp. Every day the blue whale will eat an awe inspiring 3,6000kg of krill which they hunt by diving to depths of up to 500 meters and using their mouths as a unique tool to catch them. The whale's mouth is an amazing feat of mechanical engineering: Immediately inside its mouth is has a row of plates fringed with bristles designed to help to filter the krill from the water it intakes. At the end of each of these fringed plates is what resembles a moustache of long bristles to help it to hold on to its miniscule prey. The Blue Whales mighty mouth can hold up to 5,000kg of water and krill in any one hunting drive. 

Fascinating Krill

Although they are small and not particularly interesting to look at, Krill have a massively important place in the food chain and without them almost all of the animals in the Antarctic (including the blue whale) would starve, and then simply disappear from our waters.  Krill can live for up to ten years: an incredible feat given how heavily hunted they are, and during certain times of year, krill congregate in swarms so dense and widespread across the Antarctic ocean that they can actually be seen from space.

Scientists estimate that there are so many krill in the Antarctic that the total weight of all the Antarctic krill in our oceans right now is more than the total weight of all humans on Earth. Because of this, it is massively worrying that since the 1970s, the numbers of krill living in the Antarctic has dropped by a huge 80 per cent. It is thought that this drop in numbers is because of the effects that global warming is having on the region: the Antarctic is thought to be the continent most dramatically affected by climate change. Climate change is causing much of the Antarctics ice regions to melt, leading to a drop in the numbers of ice-algae in the region. Ice-algae is krill's primary food source and without it, there simply won't be the numbers of krill available to sustain all of the animals that rely on it as their own food source and the focus of their survival.

Interlinked Survival of Both Species                                                                             

If you care about the Blue Whale and its survival then it is also important to care about the survival of Krill too. The habitats of both the blue whale and the krill they eat in order to survive is being placed under increasing pressure, both from global warming and from toxic man made water pollution.  For example, disposing of prescription medications by pouring them down the drain, flushing them down the toilet or putting them in the trash creates dangerous levels of pharmaceutical pollution in the waters off our shores; and this is having a serious and concerning effect on the habitats that these magnificent creatures, and the krill that form such a large part of their diet. Toxicologists are increasingly finding that pharmaceutical pollution is actually changing the genetic make up of many of our ocean's creatures, leaving them unable to fulfil their natural biological purpose, and take their place in the food chain. 

How to help

One way to help solve this problem of pharmaceutical pollution is to find out how to properly dispose of your leftover medications and other toxic waste in a safe disposal site in your city. If your city or town does not have a safe disposal site or hazardous waste site, you can call or write to your city hall, mayor or city representative and ask them to provide one. 

The survival of our ocean's supply of krill and of the magnificent blue whale are intrinsically intertwined. Many people talk about how important it is to ensure the blue whale's survival without actually realizing that one of the best ways to ensure this is to create safe and positive habitats for the krill that forms the vast majority of their daily diet. 

-Post written by Anne Oyster

 
Blue Whale and Krill photos
 courtesy of NOAA 
                                                                                                                 

-Learn more about blue whales when you listen to our animal song for kids,
"So Big! Blue Whale!"
from our CD "IF I WERE A FISH and Other Animal Songs for Kids".

-Check out our blue whale mother and calf video!

-WANT TO LEARN ABOUT OTHER ANIMALS WE LOVE?

-Check out our fun animal song music videos for kids:  
octopus, dolphins, worms, butterflies, gray whales, wolves, tide pools, sea turtles, and pinnipeds and even more on Birdsong TV.  Enjoy!

 -Learn about the adaptive behaviors and survival skills of wolves, orcas, worms and more on our fun 2013 Parents' Choice Approved  kids CD "EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED and Other Animal Songs for Kids" by Birdsong and the Eco-Wonders

-Find all of our kids songs about animals, plants and habitats on our Birdsong TV website. 

ENJOY! 

Lyrics and music by Birdsong 
© Little One Music (ASCAP)  All Rights Reserved


 

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About this Page: The Blue Whale and Its Position In The Food Chain The blue whale is the largest animal currently living on the planet, and is thought to be the heaviest animal that has ever existed. Blue whales are truly magnificent creatures, and the list of records that they top is truly mind boggling. Their hearts weigh as much as a standard car, their tongues weigh as much as an elephant. Despite their whopping size, however, the blue whale feasts on some of the smallest marine life in the food chain: krill. Krill are tiny invertebrate that are just 6cm long and bear an uncanny resemblance to shrimp. Every day the blue whale will eat an awe inspiring 3,6000kg of krill which they hunt by diving to depths of up to 500 meters and using their mouths as a unique tool to catch them. The whale's mouth is an amazing feat of mechanical engineering: Immediately inside its mouth is has a row of plates fringed with bristles designed to help to filter the krill from the water it intakes. At the end of each of these fringed plates is what resembles a moustache of long bristles to help it to hold on to its miniscule prey. The Blue Whales mighty mouth can hold up to 5,000kg of water and krill in any one hunting drive. Fascinating Krill Although they are small and not particularly interesting to look at, Krill have a massively important place in the food chain and without them almost all of the animals in the Antarctic (including the blue whale) would starve, and then simply disappear from our waters. Krill can live for up to ten years: an incredible feat given how heavily hunted they are, and during certain times of year, krill congregate in swarms so dense and widespread across the Antarctic ocean that they can actually be seen from space. Scientists estimate that there are so many krill in the Antarctic that the total weight of all the Antarctic krill in our oceans right now is more than the total weight of all humans on Earth. Because of this, it is massively worrying that since the 1970s, the numbers of krill living in the Antarctic has dropped by a huge 80 per cent. It is thought that this drop in numbers is because of the effects that global warming is having on the region: the Antarctic is thought to be the continent most dramatically affected by climate change. Climate change is causing much of the Antarctics ice regions to melt, leading to a drop in the numbers of ice-algae in the region. Ice-algae is krill's primary food source and without it, there simply won't be the numbers of krill available to sustain all of the animals that rely on it as their own food source and the focus of their survival. Interlinked Survival of Both Species