Young or Old?

"One whale appeared to be a juvenile, but it never showed its back much so it was hard to tell." ACS-LA Observer

Photo Caroline Armon

Why did this observer guess it was a young whale? What clues do observers look for? Whale watcher Joyce Daniels told us they look at four things:

1. Size (length of the whale's back). The calf at birth is 12 to 15 feet long and will grow to 45 to 50 feet in length. The length of the back is one of the best indicators of a whale's age.

2. Barnacles. Barnacles are off-white, and when they fall off they leave white scars. The older the whale, the more white patches and scars.

3. Lice. Lice is an orangish color and tends to cluster around wounds. If a whale has a lot of lice, you know it is an older whale.

4. Shape of flukes. Gray whales are bottom feeders. The flukes become more rounded as the whales grow older because of scraping or rubbing on the bottom of the sea.

Young or Old? What Clues Do You See?
Photo Michael H. Smith Photo The Orca Network
Photo Keith Jones