Creature Feature: Gray Whale | Adventure Unbound

Species: Eschrichtius robustus 

Likelihood of encountering this species: Extremely often (during season) on Magdalena Bay Whale Camp and San Ignacio Lagoon Whale Camp trips

Fun Facts About Gray Whales

  • You may not know it, but gray whales belong to the same baleen whale suborder as porpoises and dolphins. Unlike their smooth-skinned extended family, however, gray whales are often covered with other organisms and parasites that make their backs and snouts look like a crusty ocean rock.
  • To feed, the gray whale uses its snout to dislodge tiny creatures from the seafloor, then filters them with its baleen—a cable plate or strainer in the upper jaw.
  • An adult gray whale can weigh up to 35 tons and 15 meters long. To get the picture, stack five male African elephants into a scale. Female whales are usually slightly bigger than their male counterparts and less streamlined than other whales.
  • Newborn gray whales are usually born towards the end of the whales’ annual southward migration. Newborns weigh up to 900kg and are about 5 meters long. Twins are unheard of, though two conjoined twins were recently found floating dead in their Mexican breeding lagoon a couple of years ago.
  • Gray whales don’t have teeth. Because of their baleen state, they filter food through their baleen plates that hang down from the roof of their mouths. They scoop tiny critters that live near the seafloor and feed on them (this is the only whale that does this).
  • Mother gray whales fiercely defend their young ones. They keep them away from other predators like killer whales. 
  • Gray whales are some of the greatest migrators in the animal kingdom. They travel around 12,000 miles from their summer home in Alaskan waters to the warm waters off the Mexican coast. Like all whales, gray whales surface to breathe, so people can spot their migration along North America’s west coast.
  • There aren’t many animals that are thought to feel emotions. Gray whales are believed to feel at least some of the emotions that humans can, making them adorable large creatures.
  • As the target of extensive hunting, gray whales were in serious hazard of extinction in the early 20th century. They have now been removed from the endangered species list because their numbers have grown—a wonder we can witness every year.

This is an incredible animal that always leaves an unforgettable impression on guests (and guides)—seeing a gray whale is a once in a life time experience difficult to pass up.