WWF-Canada Blog:
Arctic


Beluga myths busted!

Beluga whales are sociable and vocal mammals. They live, hunt and migrate together in pods, ranging from a few individuals to hundreds of whales. They are one of the most recognized whale species because of their white skin colour and ‘smiling’ upturned mouth.  And, did you know they can even swim backwards? While they’re easily recognizable and quite adorable, there’s still a lot of speculation about these whales.

Let’s take a look at some beluga myths and mysteries, and try to set the record straight.

1. Belugas only live underneath the ice

Not true!  While many beluga whales live in the Canadian Arctic Ocean, they can also be found down south in the St. Lawrence River.

beluga whale

Three Beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas), St. Lawrence River, Quebec, Canada. © Robert Michaud / WWF-Canada

2. Belugas are always white

Not true.  Not all belugas are white.  Yes, adult beluga whales are white, and the word beluga comes from the Russian word “bielo” meaning white. However, these white whales are born dark gray. It can take up to eight years before they turn completely white! Sometimes belugas can appear to be stained brown, which is a result of waters with high tannic content.

Beluga (Delphinapterus leucas) in the Bering Sea © Kevin Schafer / WWF-Canon

Beluga (Delphinapterus leucas) in the Bering Sea
© Kevin Schafer / WWF-Canon

3. Beluga noises are nonsense

Not true.  Belugas use echolocation to help locate their food and to navigate through Arctic waters. Their songs and the wide variety of other calls and vocalisations are also used for communication with other belugas.

Beluga whale in the White Sea © Andrey Nekrasov / WWF-Canon

Beluga whale in the White Sea © Andrey Nekrasov / WWF-Canon

4. Belugas are similar to narwhals

Yes, actually the beluga is most closely related to the narwhal and they are the only two members of the Monodontidae family.

Beluga whale, Canada

Three Beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) swimming in Arctic waters, Canada. © Janet FOSTER / WWF-Canada

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