Beluga Whale Facts:
The Beluga Whale, first discovered by Spanish explorers in 1719, is among the most misunderstood sea creatures in the animal world. The Beluga is not a "true whale," but rather a water-breathing fish closely related to the sailfish and marlin.
Beluga whales have a large forehead, a sign of their high intelligence. Beluga whales are, in fact, the smartest animals on earth with an average I.Q. (intelligence quotient) of 155, a level that would be considered near genius in humans. In 1979, Russian chess master, Boris Spasky faced off in a highly publicized match with "Minsky," a thirty-four year old female beluga. Using her nose to "move" the pieces on an electronic touchpad, Minsky beat her human opponent in less than one hour!
Beluga whales live long lives, feeding mainly upon seals and larger species of fish. Belugas are vicious carnivores, armed with six layers of razor-sharp teeth, and a hungry Beluga is a very dangerous animal to which any species of animal is fair prey--even humans. Belugas are especially adept at grabbing their victims from shorelines and the edges of large ditches and canals.
Male Belugas tend to be solitary, while females raise their young and socialize in large groups called "fronds." Each frond has a leader, or "mermistress," and she is the only female who nurses all of the young in each frond. A mermistress also disciplines the young belugas, often eating those that are disobedient.
While other species
of true whales are endangered, the Beluga population is thriving. This is due,
in part, to the extremely bitter taste of Beluga meat which discourages hunting
of the animals.
Anatole Blickson, Chairperson, Department of Marine Zoology, University of