Hearing the name Pygmy Blue Whale often creates thoughts of a miniature whale that traverses the oceans without ever being seen… but only part of that sentence is true! The Pygmy Blue Whale grows up to 24 meters in length and can weigh 90 tonnes making it clear that they are not miniature whales by any standard and although they are large in size their migration patterns and movement through our oceans has allowed these mammals to be one of the most rarely sighted species of whales on the planet.
The Pygmy Blue Whale was discovered as a separate species of whale in 1966 and their history goes back to over 20,000 years ago when a small population was separated by enormous quantities of glacial ice. The situation most likely causing many Blue Whales to have migrated north with the remaining Blue Whales and smaller gene pool that was left behind creating a separate species over time. The Pygmy Blue Whale is a sub-species of the Blue Whale and because of this they share many characteristics and look very similar, however there are a few different physical traits that we can notice when looking carefully.
- Overall body shape of a tadpole with larger head and smaller tapering tail/fluke
- Broader baleen plates that are also shorter due to their larger head size
- When compared to a Blue Whale of the same size a Pygmy Blue is heavier in weight
- Appearance of an aquamarine submarine when surfacing due to their lighter shade of grey in comparison with Blue Whales
Pygmy Blues are baleen whales and their main source of food is krill which they will travel thousands of kilometres to reach suitable feeding grounds with high densities of this favoured food source. A large appetite and their enormous size means eating up to 150 tonnes of krill a day is completely normal for a Pygmy Blue Whale! One of only three known feeding grounds that produce enough quantities of krill to feed these mammoth mammals is located just past Rottnest Island on the West Australian coastline, the Perth Canyon. Over the year the canyon attracts hundreds of Blue Whales and many other species of wildlife who feast in the Perth Canyon.
The migratory pattern of the Pygmy Blue Whales of Australia are still being discovered and new information about their mysterious lives is coming to light thanks to the hard work and persistence of researchers all over Australia and the world. Feeding and refuelling in the Perth Canyon during March/April they will then leave the canyon and head north to the tropical waters of Indonesia where it is believed some females will give birth to calves and they will also resume feeding again. During November/December many of these Pygmy Blues can now be detected feeding in the Bonney Upwelling located in South Australia. A round trip of over 10,000 kilometres and an average movement of 25 to 100km per day is cruise control travel for the Blue.
The future is exciting for the Pygmy Blue Whale populations found in Australian waters and we are fortunate to have their most well known feeding ground located so close to the city of Perth, Western Australia. Population numbers of Pygmy Blue Whales are believed to be greater than those of Antarctic Blue Whales and both of these species have been known to share the same feeding grounds. What is truly remarkable is the DNA research that was taken from Blue Whales feeding off Antarctica produced results of six Blue Whales who had both Antarctic Blue Whale and Pygmy Blue Whale in their genetics… the two species had mated and created hybrid Blues!
This incredible discovery is just one of the many inspiring reasons why the Blue Whales of Australia continue to attract the attention of researchers from all over the world as we do all that we can to learn everything possible about these beautiful mammals. Stay tuned as our inaugural Blue Whale Perth Canyon Experience is set to start this weekend and our excitement levels are even bigger than the size of these wonderful Blues to share with you all that we see and learn!