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Beluga Whale Habitat

Belugas or white whales are one of the few whale species, that are kept in aquariums. Here are some facts about their habitat and distribution.
Sonia Nair
Beluga whales are also known as white whales for their body color. They are called sea canaries, for their high-pitched squeaks and whistles. These marine mammals are smaller, as compared to other whales. Beluga whales are easily distinguishable with their stark white skin color and prominent foreheads. The young ones have a gray or brown body color, that transforms to white, as they become adults.

Where Do Beluga Whales Live?

Belugas are found in the Arctic and Subarctic regions, along the coasts of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Russia. These whales inhabit the Arctic ocean and the adjoining seas, like the Bering Sea, the Beaufort Sea, the Sea of Okhotsk, etc. They are also seen in the Baffin Bay, Hudson Bay, the Gulf of Alaska, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Beluga whales that inhabit the Arctic waters migrate when the sea freezes. During such times, they can be seen in some large rivers, like the Amur of Russia, and the St. Lawrence and Yukon rivers of Canada.
Beluga whales are found in areas with icebergs and ice floes. They can withstand temperatures as low as 32ºF. Even though they love to dive into deep ocean waters, beluga whales are mostly found in the shallow coastal areas. During summers, most of the beluga population can be found in warm water estuaries and river basins. This proves the fact, that these whales are adapted to both freshwater and cold marine conditions.

Some Beluga Whale Facts

Belugas (Delphinapterus leucas) are toothed whales that belong to the family Monodontidae. Besides belugas, the only other member of this family is the narwhal.
Unlike other toothed whales, belugas are smaller. Males are larger, as compared to females. While males grow up to a length of around 5.5 meters, females reach a length of around 4 meters.
Apart from their white skin color, the prominent forehead is another characteristic feature of these whales.
They have a fatty tissue lump at the center of their forehead, and this structure is commonly referred to as 'melon'. In case of beluga whales, the melon is conspicuously bulbous and pliable.
These whales have the ability to change the shape of their forehead by blowing air into the sinuses.
Beluga whales have around 40 teeth. They lack dorsal fin, but have a dorsal ridge, that is believed to be an adaptation for living in their natural habitat.
These whales can turn their heads sidewards, as the vertebrae on their necks are not fused, as in case of other whales. They have rounded bodies and curved tail fins. The flippers are almost squarish.
These amazing marine creatures are losing their habitat, due to global warming and human activities. These whales are also hunted by the indigenous people of the Arctic regions. Even predators like polar bears and killer whales feed on beluga whales. Pollution is another factor that affects the beluga population. They are listed as a 'near threatened' species. A further dip in the beluga population may lead to listing of this amazing marine mammal as a 'threatened' species.