Beluga whales are interesting and mysterious to me, but when I found a video of one dancing while being serenaded by a mariachi band.. I had to do some googling.
I've seen belugas in documentaries, but I've never really thought about them before. They inhabit Arctic and sub-Arctic seas near the coasts of Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Russia, and primarily eat fish, squid, octopus and crustaceans. Yeah, cool, so whats so interesting?
Beluga whales are an incredibly friendly and social bunch! Also known as a "sea canary" they squeak, chirp, whistle and click to communicate with each other. They congregate in groups of two to twenty five, but pods of belugas aggregate in estuaries and can reach up to 10,000. Mother and calf form very close life long bonds, and often will remain in the same pod and migrate to estuaries together. Humans have interacted with belugas since ye old whaling days, taking advantage of their sweet mild manner to capture them and of coarse, hunt them.
This strangely adorable whale is a very unique species with only one other living relative in the same family, the narwhal. I want this train of thought let loose because.. well frankly theres a lot of polar pears in santa hats this season and I'm a little sick of it. Save the polar bears, yes. Now expand your mind and think about saving the beluga while watching the beluga boogy below.
During the winter months pods of belugas stay along the edge of the ice pack, or live under the Arctic ice by finding breathing holes called polynyas. They must surface to breathe, so they will rotate and share a single small opening in the ice until they continue their migration. They are well equipped with echo-location capabilities that may be how they mysteriously navigate from polynyna to air pocket, and survive under the Arctic ice.
Around the edge of the ice pack and in polynyas belugas are incredibly vulnerable to predation by killer whales, polar bears, and humans. Polar bears will sit and wait at a polynya and maul each beluga who surfaces to breathe until they make a catch, awesome for the polar bear not the beluga. Well, as the sea ice melts more and more each year polar bears can't use this hunting strategy (wooo go beluga). But what that leaves the beluga population subject to is killer whales...
I'd rather take my chances hiding stealthily under the ice and hoping to not get eaten by a few polar bears than be a big white whale in a pod of twenty, in the big blue ocean, with transient orca whales invading my neck of the woods.
Then, they spend their summer months in river estuaries absorbing human contaminates, and giving birth to their young.
This is a beautiful unique creature that is largely overlooked when thinking about the ecological effects of the receding ice pack and human pollution. This sociable, fun, gentle, intelligent, warm blooded animal captured my heart dancing with the mariachi band, I hope you can fall in love with a beluga too.
Beluga whales are "near threatened" by the IUCN redlist, and polar bears are one step up being "vulnerable".
Save the polar bear! Save the beluga!