Study Shows Diet Plays A Huge Role In How Big Whales Can Be

Whales are well, for lack of a better term, big or huge, or gigantic. Point is, they’re essentially the biggest animals on Earth at the moment, and it seems like it would take a few more million (or billion) years if an animal evolves to be eventually bigger than them, though that seems unlikely.

With that in mind, have you ever wondered why whales, as big as they are already, aren’t much bigger? Well, a new study reveals that it basically has something to do with the amount of calories that they take in.

Big Calories For The Big Whales

The analysis comes courtesy of a group of researchers, who recently used a number of small boats to chase some 300 whales from various species all around the world. To gather the needed data, the researchers reportedly attached sensors to the creatures via long poles and suction technology, which then allowed them to observe these whales even when they dive deeper into the waters in search of food.

Per the results of the research, which were published Thursday in the scientific journal Science, whale body size is controlled by how much they capture prey, as well as how much food is available.

According to the group, their research included 90 blue whales, which are the biggest animals (both on sea and land) to ever live. And while sizes may vary, data from the American Cetacean Society revealed that blue whales can easily grow up to 100 feet in length, as well as weigh more than 100 tons. Additionally, the biggest whales with teeth, which is the sperm whale, is also included in the study.

Per the team, toothed whales hunt by capturing one prey at a time, hence its size and the wide availability on prey.

“It looks like you cannot be much bigger than a sperm whale when hunting the way it does,” said Nicholas Pyenson of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, who was part of the research.

According to them, blue whales are much bigger because it feeds efficiently, taking in a lot of food (calories), which then contributes to its enormous size.

beluga whale Image Reuters