Giant Minds: Are Blue Whales Intelligent?

are blue whales intelligent

Blue whales are some of the most fascinating animals that planet earth has to offer. As well as the largest!

In fact, the blue whale is the largest animal that has ever lived, even bigger than the dinosaurs that once roamed the earth.

In this post, we’re going to take a closer look at the blue whale and answer a question we find many of our readers searching for. Are blue whales intelligent?

In short, yes, blue whales are intelligent. These animals have incredibly large brains that can weigh up to 8kg and are intelligent enough to know what food source is worth chasing or leaving.

Let’s take a closer look…

Are Blue Whales Actually Intelligent?

Blue whales are undoubtedly intelligent animals. They are able to navigate the large oceans and teach their offspring how their worlds work.

Although the blue whale’s brain isn’t the largest of the whale species and the sperm whales take the cake for that award, blue whales can size up food to determine if it’s worth hunting or not.

These whales can be around 26m in length and weigh roughly 150,000 – 300,000 pounds, which means speeding up to chase prey isn’t always a worthy pursuit.

Blue whales can calculate the distance of the krill, as well as the size of the school, and come to a decision.

Given that their diet is almost exclusively krill, they have mastered the art of determining what school of krill is worth seeking and what is not worth their effort.

Blue whales can consume up to 40 million krill, which would weigh about 4 tons every single day during peak feeding season.

They are friendly whales that are non-aggressive toward humans.

These whales are smart enough to know that we humans are not on their menu, and allow people to experience life-changing moments with blue whales in the wild.

How Big Are Blue Whale Brains?

Surprisingly blue whales have proportionally small brains for their size, typically around 6 – 7kg and around 0.007% of their total body weight.

However, just because the blue whale has a smaller brain than the likes of the sperm whale, this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s less effective.

The differences in the size of brains correspond to differences in the total number of neurons within the brain and the size of individual neurons, with larger brains generally having more numerous and larger neurons.

Yet the consequences of reduced or increased size of the nervous system, and the brain for behavior still remain unclear.

Honeybees, for example, have incredibly small brains, but still, exhibit highly sophisticated behavior despite their small brains.

How Smart Are Blue Whales?

When it comes to putting measurements on how smart an animal is, it’s incredibly difficult as they all behave differently, and being “smart” or “intelligent” isn’t species-specific.

Comparing one animal’s “smartness” to another is not accurate, nor a fair way to draw conclusions.

Sadly there is no IQ test that we can give to different species to finally put an end to which animal is the smarts in the ocean, nor has there been a lot of research done on the intelligence of blue whales.

If we are defining smartness as the ability to learn, apply knowledge, and understand situations, then the blue whale is certainly sitting at that table.

What we do know is that whales, including blue whales, are incredibly smart. They are incredible communicators and show high levels of social and emotional intelligence.

Although they are generally solitary and prefer to roam the oceans alone, they are great at passing on knowledge to their young and ensuring that they have the best chances of survival as they grow.

Their large brains allow them to problem-solve, socialize and even play! This helps them bond with their calves and have some time to unwind.

Do Blue Whales Have Feelings?

Blue whales, likely many other whales are certainly capable of having feelings and expressions of emotions.

Since blue whales communicate through high-frequency clicks and whistles, they likely express themselves through this communication too.

If conditions are right, these clicks and whistles can travel for up to 500 miles in the ocean.

They are one of the loudest animals on earth and their calls can be up to 188 decibels loud, lasting 10 – 30 seconds, and can travel extreme distances.

Some blue whales, such as those in the Sri Lankan seas even communicate with one another through songs.

Evidence suggests that blue whales are not only conscious and self-aware but that they are also able to experience a range of different emotions.

Although it’s very difficult to provide definitive answers as to whether blue whales have feelings, they have been witnessed exhibiting various behaviors that can be associated with certain emotions.

When researchers have spent a lifetime working with one species and getting to understand a range of different behaviors in context, it is highly credible and deserves more attention.

Empathy, grief, and happiness are all said to be emotions that blue whales can feel and do experience.

Final Thoughts

So, are blue whales intelligent? Absolutely! Their large brains are much more complex than you might think.

These gigantic whales are capable of making decisions, problem-solving, and socializing. They are excellent communicators and have feelings and emotions too.

Blue whales need to be intelligent to be able to protect themselves and stay alive in today’s modern world.

With so many threats around, and such a big target, these animals have had to use their wits in order to survive.

That said, the blue whale has no real natural predators because of its size, the only animals that try to tackle the blue whale are killer whales, which often result in unsuccessful attacks.

Hopefully, this post has been insightful into the blue whale’s intelligence and you’ve learned a thing or two today about this magnificent creature.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and if you have enjoyed it, feel free to stick around to learn more about blue whales and other marine wildlife.