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The gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus), also known as the grey whale, gray back whale, Pacific gray whale, or California gray whale, is a baleen whale that migrates between feeding and breeding grounds yearly. It reaches a length of 49 feet, a weight of 36 tons, and lives between 55 and 70 years.
See the fact file below for more information on the gray whale or alternatively, you can download our 22-page Gray Whale worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- The gray whale is generally placed within its genus and families, Eschrichtius and Eschrichtiidae, as the only living species.
- Recent analyses of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) have shown that some types of baleen whales, such as humpback and fin whale, are more closely related to the gray whale.
- In 1865, John Edward Gray placed it in his own genus and named it in honor of Daniel Frederik Eschricht, physician and zoologist. The whale’s common name originates from its coloring.
- The gray whale was ascribed to several other names, including desert whale, devilfish, gray back, mussel digger, and rip sack.
- The gray whale reaches a length of approximately 49 feet. It is gray or black, white mottled, and has thin yellow baleen with coarse bristles.
- On its throat, there are two (rarely more) longitudinal grooves.
- The back has a series of low humps along its circumference instead of a dorsal fin.
- Individual whales are usually marked using photos of their dorsal surface and comparing the scars and patches associated with or still attached to parasites that have fallen off the whale.
- Gray whales have two blowholes on top of their head that, in calm wind conditions, can produce a distinctive heart-shaped blow into the air.
- Gray whales often typically have large quantities of barnacles and whale lice attached to the head and chest.
- Gray whales are bottom feeders that eat a wide variety of benthic and epibenthic invertebrates.
- Gray whales hunt seabed animals by rolling on one side and then gradually floating along, swallowing sand and the little creatures that live in it. They then sieve the water and sand through their baleen, leaving the food behind.
- Gray whales suck sediment and food from the seabed by turning on their sides and swimming slowly, filtering food on either side of their upper jaws through the 130 to 180 coarse baleen plates.
HABITAT & MIGRATION
- Although large, gray whales are mostly coastal, seldom venturing more than 10-20 miles offshore. They are found primarily in the shallow coastal waters of the northern Pacific Ocean.
- The larger eastern Pacific population summers and feeds primarily in the shallow waters of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, as well as the northwestern Bering Sea. A few still summer and feed along the Pacific coast from Vancouver Island (Canada) to central California (US).
- The gray whale is one of the greatest migrators of the animal kingdom.
- Some of these giants, moving in groups called pods, swim 12,430 miles round-trip from their summer home in Alaskan waters to warmer waters off the Mexican coast.
- Many gray whales also live in the surrounding Korean seas.
- Gray whales show the behavior of “spyhopping”, which refers to raising their heads straight out of the water and revealing their entire rostrum for a few minutes. They do that when they hunt for sharks or other whales.
- They also “breach” (jumping up into the air and splashing down onto their back or side, also known as cresting or lunging), which is understood to be a form of communication, a form of play, and an attempt at removing skin parasites.
- Breeding behaviors are complex and frequently include three animals or more. Both male and female whales hit maturity somewhere between the ages of 5 and 11 years old.
- From late November to early December, females exhibit highly synchronized reproduction during oestrus.
- It is normal for the females to have multiple mates during the breeding season. It is suspected that this single ovulation event coincides with the annual migration patterns of the species, so that births will occur in warmer waters.
- A female bears a single calf after a gestation period of 13 to 14 months.
- She nurses the calf until it is 6 to 7 months old. The youngsters are intensely defensive against future predators.
- The offspring inherit their mothers’ feeding grounds, and they are sometimes seen in them a year after they are independent.
- The major threats to gray whales are shipping and industrial activities along the coastal migration routes. These activities raise the risk of fishing net entanglement, ship collisions, and pollution. Degradation of the environment from dredging and drilling is also a concern.
- The eastern Pacific population is 15,000-22,000 whales according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, while the western Pacific population is just about 100.
Gray Whale Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the gray whale across 22 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Gray Whale worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus), also known as the grey whale, gray back whale, Pacific gray whale, or California gray whale, which is a baleen whale that migrates between feeding and breeding grounds yearly. It reaches a length of 49 feet, a weight of 36 tons, and lives between 55 and 70 years.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Gray Whale Facts
- Gray Info
- Classification Type
- G.W. Complete
- Name the Parts
- Let’s See
- Guess What
- Movie Review
- Comic Strip
- Kinds of Whales
- Breaking News
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Link will appear as Gray Whale Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, May 7, 2020
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.