Delphinapterus leucas

Other Names: Belukha, Sea Canary, White Whale

Habitat: Inshore and occasionally offshore

Status: Locally common

Population: 50,000-70,000

Threats: Habitat destruction, human disturbance, pollution, and hunting/whaling

Group Size: 5-20, hundreds or thousands around river mouths in summer

Fin Position: No fin

Newborns: 5-5 ft (1.5-1.6 m), 175 lbs. (80 kg)

Adults: c.9 -16 ft (3-5 m), 0.4-1.5 tons

Diet: Fish, and occasionally krill or other crustaceans and squid or octopus

Teeth: 16-22 on top row, 16-18 on bottom row



- trailing edges sometimes dark brown
- distinct notch in middle
- convex trailing edges become more pronounced with age


- up curved flippers in males only (more pronounced with age)
- broad, spatulate, and highly mobile flippers


- distinct neck region
- short beak
- proportionately small head with rounded melon
- well-defined crease behind blowhole
- melon changes shape and may resonate during sound production
- broad mouth line

Facial expressions:

- forehead shaped into a "frown"
- closed, down turned mouth
- melon alters shape with changing facial expression
- rounded "lips" appear to be whistling

Young adult female:

- considerably smaller body size than male
- body scarring caused by Polar Bears
- less pronounced melon than in male
- young adults white with blue tinge (both sexes)
- no up curving of flippers


- less pronounced melon than older animals
- trailing edges of flukes straighter than in older animals
- dark slate gray body may have pinkish brown tinge


- more convex flukes than newborn
- lighter body color than newborn
- more pronounced melon than newborn

Other characteristics:

- surface of body may have creases and folds of fat; scarring common
- dorsal ridge instead of fin
- ridge extends for about 20 in (50 cm), and may form series of dark bumps
- rough skin over much of body
- white body color may appear yellowish at certain times of year
- robust body shape
- distinct neck ridge


- normally a slow swimmer and spends much of its time at or near the surface
- moves with a gently undulating motion
- dive sequence typically consists of 5 or 6 shallow dives in a minute, followed by a deeper dive lasting roughly another minute
- virtually never breaches, but sometimes lifts its head above water while swimming
- often spyhops and lobtails
- social animal that is rarely found along, except older individuals during migration
- blow is steamy but inconspicuous and low; on calm days, however, it can be heard at range of several hundred yards


- circumpolar distribution in seasonally ice-covered waters of the Arctic and Subarctic
- five main populations are recognized: in the Bering, Chukchi, and Okhotsk Seas (25,000 to 30,000); high-arctic Canada and west Greenland (10,000 to 14,000); Hudson Bay and James Bay, Canada (9,000 to 12,000); Svalbard area (5,000 to 10,000); and Gulf of St. Lawrence, Canada (300 to 500)
- found off the coasts of Scandinavia, Greenland, Svalbard, former Soviet Union, and North America
- seasonal distribution is directly related to ice conditions, but most populations do not make extensive migrations; longest is by those that winter in the Bering Sea and summer in the Mackenzie River, Canada
- in summer, some populations may swim 620 miles (1,000 km) or more up river
- other populations do not migrate at all, such as the residents of St. Lawrence River, Canada (the St. Lawrence animals have such high concentrations of chemical contaminants in their bodies that they are treated as toxic waste when they die)
- spends summer in shallow bays and estuaries
- winters in areas of loose pack ice, where wind and ocean currents keep cracks and breathing holes open

TMMSN Galveston

TMMSN Corpus Christi

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This page was created by:Candice Orca Mottet