The Life of Whales: How Long Do Whales Live?

How long do whales live?

Whales live a good long life, not like Methuselah, of course! Most whales live for an average of 60 -100 years, which is very similar to present-day human life. This number varies a lot, with some species living longer than others.

In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about the lifespan of whales (including some fun facts, so read on)

How Long Do Whales Live?

The estimated average lifespan of whales is 60 to100 years for the non-endangered healthy whales.

Some whales are more difficult to research than others, deeming it hard to conclude the actual average lifespan.

That being said, various factors affect the lifespan of a whale such as species, habitat, geography, diet, and lifestyle.

To illustrate this, here is a table that gives a summary on how long whales live for:

Whale SpeciesAverage Lifespan
Beluga whale40 – 60 years
Blue whale70 – 90 years
Killer whale30 – 60 years
Bowhead whale100 – 200 years
Fin whale 60 – 100 years
Gray whale 50 – 70 years
Humpback whale40 – 100 years
Minke whale30 – 50 years
Narwhal whale40 – 60 years
Sperm whale60 – 80 years
Table 1: Average Lifespan of A Whale

This is the result of the hard work of scientists who have burnt the midnight oil, to make sure there is enough data and evidence to get a good idea of the lifespan of these whales.

How Long Do Killer Whales Live?

The killer whale is also known as an orca or using the scientific name Orcinus orca is a carnivorous whale, whose lifespan is an average of 30-60 years but when in the wild it goes up to 50-80 years.

Whales that live in captivity are known to have a substantially shorter lifespan. This is evident for the killer whale and beluga whale, both held captive by Sea World before 2014.

How long do whales live?

Due to the killer whale’s high intelligence and social acumen they were kept in marine parks for entertainment. This has proved detrimental to their lifespan. Held in captivity, killer whales mostly live up to their 20s and rarely past that.

Killer whales are also very beautiful and are easily recognizable by their black and white coloring.

How Long Do Beluga Whales Live?

The beluga whale lives an average of 40 to 60 years. It is also known as the white whale and is one of the smallest whales.

They are easily distinguishable because of their color which is why they are also known as white whales. The beluga whales live in social clusters called pods. These social engagements and their easy ability to find a mate helps the beluga whale to live a substantially long time compared to ex-communicated or trapped ones. The more endangered a whale is the more difficult it is for them to find a social group of their kind. Luckily, this does not apply to the beluga.

How Long Do Sperm Whales Live?

The sperm whale lives an average of 60 to 80 years. Just like the beluga whales, sperm whales also live in pods of about 15 to 20 whales. The sperm whale is the largest toothed predator. It is known to migrate depending on the season for feeding or breeding.

Some parts of the seas have been turned into commercial waters. These areas have become risky for whales to stay in. The whales that live, feed, and mate close to these waters become in danger of being struck by ships or being affected by pollution.

Before the ban of commercial whaling in 1985, the number of sperm whale reduced drastically but have improved since then. This is also evident with the humpback whale. [1]

Despite these drops, the sperm whale numbers are still numerous.

Average Lifespan of a Bowhead Whales

Lastly, we have to talk about the whales with the highest number of birthday celebrations, the bowhead whales. The Bowhead whales can live up to 200 years!

According to Don Moore, director of the Oregon Zoo in Portland, this is because the bowhead whale lives in cold or chilly waters. The cold environment translates to a cold body temperature that in turn means a slow metabolism resulting in reduced damage to tissues, Moore says. Not also forgetting that the arctic waters have a lot of food.

Comparative oncologists and marine biologists have been working together to have a deeper understanding of why bowhead whales live a very long life. With this as their basis, they want to find a cure for cancer which would personally make the bowhead whales my favorite whale. [2]

Some Fun Facts on Whale

Here are some interesting facts about whales;

  • Blue whales are the largest mammal in the world.
  • The blue whale’s calf can weigh up to 1.8 tones at birth, and yes you read that right. It is now classified as endangered species because it used to be hunted a lot for its oil and blubber, almost to extinction. 
  • The sperm whales are famously known for their big heads, and rounded foreheads; are also known to have the biggest brains of any animal that has ever lived on earth.
  • Humpback whales which are omnivores, can be found in all oceans in the world. They are also famous for their magical songs. These are the noises and moans they use to communicate with other humpback whales.

Here is a documentary on whales that am sure you will enjoy watching.

Did you know that whales breastfeed their newborns? See whales just like human beings belong to class Mammalia, which means animals that have mammary glands. That means female whales produce milk for their newborns and breastfeed at sea.

Lastly, Here is a recap on the average lifespan of whales;

  • Killer Whales live for 30 to 60 years in captivity but when in the wild it goes up to 50 to 80 years.
  • The Beluga whale lives for 40 to 60 years on average
  • The sperm whale lives an average of 60 to 80 years.
  • The Bowhead whales live the longest among the whales. They can live up to 200 years!

I hope you enjoyed reading this. If you did let us know in the comments.

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