Reproduction and Life

What it takes to be a Beluga


Facts and About Me





































ŠLisa Walter, 2007

Many Odd Characteristics of The Beluga

      Belugas seem to be adapting at all times. They adapted to aquatic existence around 50 million years ago. Fossils were recently found in Mexico and California areas which means that they have recently changed to prefer Arctic waters.

Look Ma! No Dorsal Fin!

      First of all, the genus name implies an adaptation within itself. The genus literally means "dolphin without a wing" which leads to the fact that Belugas are lacking a dorsal fin. The lack of the dorsal fin is predominant in all of the 3 arctic whales and arctic dolphin. Instead of the dorsal fin they have a rough ridge along their back that many researchers believe has shrunken down throughout the years and now may only be used to break through ice in their pathways. Other theories exist about the missing fin are that it possibly was lost because it lost too much heat through the large surface area of the fin or the other main idea is that it was vulnerable to damage from swimming through the ice blocks. The dorsal fin is not the only fins that have changed. The Beluga's pectoral fins (side fins) are much smaller and differently shaped from other whales. The fins become shaped like a "J" as the whale ages.

***NOTE: The yellow color of the above represents the Beluga skin which is ready to Molt.
(Belugas molt every summer; their skin turns yellow and when it does they rub their body on rocks and sand to lose their older skin.)

Look At the Size of That Melon!

          Another adaptation is the Beluga's giant melon! The head of the Beluga is called the melon because of the large, oil-filled, forehead. Normally, the melon is considered a part of the Beluga's unique ability to use echolocation. Echolocation is the ability to send out clicks and sounds using the sacs around the blowhole. Then the sounds bounce off an object and then received back at the forehead of the whale. Belugas are extremely vocal whales and have rightfully been given the nickname Sea Canaries. This ability is specific to toothed- whales and dolphins. The other less significant use of the melon is to show facial expression. The whale can change the amount of oil in the forehead therefore making different faces.

                                         No Pain in the Neck!

           Probably one of the more important adaptations of the Beluga is that unlike other cetaceans, belugas cervical vertebrate is not fused. Therefore, the Beluga can move it's head in all directions, most whales can not turn its head to the sides but this allows the Beluga to be able to. Two very small free bones serve as the sites for muscle attachment, so when the whale turns it's head the constriction of the neck is easily seen.

    ** Beluga is "spyhopping". The action of popping head out of water to look  around.**

(Top Picture) Permission by: Pallas, P.S., 1776.  Reise durch verschiedene Provinzen des Russischen Reichs,

(Bottom picture) Permission by: NOAA. (online).