Blue whales are the largest animal to have ever lived on Earth, and that includes dinosaurs.
Until the 20th century, blue whales were hunted only by killer whales, their only natural predator. Despite the common practice of whaling, there was no technology to hunt a 160-ton animal that could reach speeds of 30 mph. It was only when engineering improvements allowed for deck-mounted harpoon cannons and faster boats that humans posed a threat to blue whales. They are now among the 2,218 species on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered species list.
Estimating living populations underwater is a challenge. The blue whale population in the Southern Hemisphere plummeted from 200,000 to mere thousands after years of industrial whaling, according to the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Elsewhere, they’ve also been hunted extensively, and their population is estimated at around 1,000 off the coast of Iceland and 3,000 in the Tropic Eastern Pacific.