How Long Do Beluga Whales Live?

Beluga whales live 35 to 50 years long.

This is the estimated longevity of belugas based on the studies of zoological and wild populations of these sea creatures. However, new research indicates that belugas may reach the age of 70.

How long beluga whales actually live is a mystery to scientists. People have speculated that they might reach age 35-50. According to the NOAA, some people extrapolate their life expectancy from the number of teeth they shed annually, which is between 60 and 70 years.

No exact and accurate number defines the age of these marine fish. That’s why we have decided to write a comprehensive article about these majestic whales’ life span and the life cycle facts about this fantastic whale. Let’s uncover the secrets of these fish.

How Long Do Beluga Whales Live?

The estimated lifespan of a beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas) is between 35 and 50 years.

The life cycle varies depending on its weight, how healthy its condition is, how it interacts with its environment, and what other factors are going on in its life cycle.

These sea canaries are the biggest marine fish native to the Arctic Ocean, but their life longevity is not more than 70 years. Beluga whales’ life expectancy is decreasing because their prey, small fish, are becoming a fraction of their weight yearly.

Scientists believe that belugas may survive for as long as 70 years. But the actual survival of these species will be determined only after analyzing all the research, observation, and survey that will take place in years to come.

Beluga Whale

The lifespan of a beluga whale varies based on the location of its habitats, like in the Arctic Ocean, the Barents Sea, and the St. Lawrence River.

In the Pacific, it varies depending on the whale population density in the area. Their bodies can be expected to withstand harsh environmental conditions, and mature whales can live up to 50 years.

Beluga Whale Life Cycle Facts

After a period of greying, Beluga whales finally turn white between the ages of 7 and 9 (before that age, they are considered juveniles).

At around 13 years of age, the Beluga whale’s skin turns completely white to help it fit in with the polar ice caps, a trait that has become instantly recognizable. Adult belugas can reach lengths of up to 20 feet and weights of up to 3000 pounds.

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It’s common for mating to occur during March and May. Belugas are pregnant for 13 months which is 4 months longer than a human female is pregnant.

Beluga whales have a lifespan of 35-50 years, and their demise can be caused by a wide range of factors, including being killed by a polar bear or an orca or ingesting toxins from other animals.

How Long Do Beluga Whales Live in Captivity?

They are the canaries of the sea because of their expressiveness and beauty, and beluga whales have earned that reputation.

In contrast, belugas are constantly exploited and held imprisoned for human enjoyment, a fate shared by many songbirds. But how long do belugas live in captivity?

With high and low estimates of 29 and 15 years, beluga whales in captivity had a median lifespan of 19.5 years. It had been 24 years since they first visited a SeaWorld theme park.

As in the wild, pneumonia is the leading cause of death for marine mammals kept in captivity. More than a quarter of all captive deaths examined by the AP were caused by infections.

Do Beluga Whales Get Sick? Main Threats to Belukha’s Health

According to Forbes, beluga whales can also get sick like other living creatures. They can be victims of coronavirus and other diseases.

The viruses can affect their lungs and brain. Their health can also be affected by algal toxins and organophosphate (poison) weapons used in warfare.

According to research on Science Direct, the prevalence of cancer and its effects on certain populations of wild mammals have been the topic of extensive study. These populations include belugas (Delphinapterus leucas) and California sea lions (Zalophus californianus)~ (Source)

Diseases can cause fatalities in beluga whale populations, just as in other animal groups. The following reasons cause infections:

  • Viruses
  • Germs and fungi
  • Skin conditions
  • Malignancies
  • Cardiovascular illness
  • Urological abnormalities and
  • Respiratory conditions.

Toxic contamination may contribute to or even cause some of these disorders.

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The 4 Main Threats to Belugas’ Health

  • Hunting – On Greenland, Russia, Canada, and the United States coast, beluga whales are killed for their meat.
  • Pollution – The accumulation of toxic chemicals from plastic, litter, and oil spills severely impairs beluga whales’ health and reproductive capacity.
  • Noise pollution – The beluga whale uses sound as a means of both orientation and communication. They can be disrupted and even stranded by noise from military sonar, oil and gas drilling and exploration, and shipping.

What Happens with A Beluga Whale After Death?

A Museum expert in marine life in deep-sea biodiversity – Dr. Adrian Glover, explains what happens to beluga whales when they die. Once a beluga whale dies, decay sets in quickly as the carcass decomposes from the inside out.

beluga wahles ear

The animal then fills with gas and floats to the water’s surface, where sharks and seabirds can feast on its leftovers. With time, the oceanic behemoth will begin to sink, gradually descending to the seafloor for many kilometers.

From giant predators to microscopic microbes, whale calvings can bolster deep-sea ecosystems. This sudden and massive food supply is invaluable to the few people living on the ocean floor.

When a beluga whale dies and sinks to the ocean floor, it is quickly devoured by various fish and crustaceans. During this first scavenging phase, a single whale can supply animals with food for up to two years. (Source)

Are Beluga Whales Euthanized?

Yes, much evidence clearly shows that beluga whales are euthanized in various cases. Science Times reports that a 13-foot beluga whale was euthanized after rescue efforts in the River Seine failed for more than a week. (Source)

On Tuesday, August 9, 2022, a beluga whale was spotted swimming through the lock of Notre Dame de la Garenne at Saint-Pierre-la-Garenne, west of Paris, France.

Due to the cat’s dangerously low body weight, it developed breathing problems during Wednesday’s rescue attempt, prompting veterinarians to make the agonizing decision of euthanizing it. (Source)

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How Is a Beluga Whale Euthanized?

Explosive grenades, explosives, heavy caliber rifles, and drugs are used to euthanize a beluga whale. Unlike dolphins, these big creatures are in deep water, so it’s tough to save the whale if something goes wrong.

Scientists use three types of explosives: an underwater explosion, a sound-emitting charge, and a massive dry ice fall. However, these insane methods are not legally allowed.

Drugs are given in an IV through a needle at the mouth. Scientists aim to give them a lethal dose of drugs and then allow them to slip into sleep.

The whale does not regain consciousness until it hits the ocean floor. They euthanize the belugas when there is no chance for their survival.

How Long Does It Take for A Dead Whale to Decompose?

It usually takes more than 30 years for a dead whale to decompose. Quite interesting? How long a dead whale decomposes depends on where it is and if there’s any pollution around.

Dead marine animals have bacteria living in them and eating the organic matter. Still, the organic matter doesn’t become compost until months or years after the animal dies due to hundreds of tons of weight.

For example, the carcass of a Beluga whale at the bottom of the ocean can only decompose in about seven years. Their big bodies are also heavy and compact, and the decomposition process is slow and painful.

Who Lives Longer? Beluga Whale or Blue Whale

Blue whales have a lifespan of 70 to 100 years, whereas beluga whales have a lifespan of 35 to 50 years. It clearly shows that blue whales live longer.

They are, in fact, the largest animal ever. These sea canaries, which can grow up to 40ft long, eat up to a ton of fish daily and live longer than 100 years.

Conclusion

Beluga whales’ age span is quite different from what people usually expect. They have a 35 to 50 years lifespan, although belugas rarely survive beyond 35. These beautiful creatures are easily misconstrued as human-like smart creatures but extremely intelligent.

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