Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index


Scientific classification
Genus: Delphinapterus
Binomial name
Delphinapterus leucas

The Beluga Delphinapterus leucas is an Arctic and subarctic species of cetacean similar in size and shape to a dolphin. It is related to the Narwhal, and possibly also to the similar Irrawaddy Dolphin.

This small gregarious whale can be up to 5m long, and weigh 1.5 tonnes. Birthweight is about 80kg. This whale is unmistakeable when adult: it is all white, has a small rounded head, and has a dorsal ridge rather than a fin.

These are slow-swimming mammals which feed mainly on fish. Some populations migrate, but ice cover decides the extent of this.

The main natural predators are Polar Bears, especially when the whales become trapped in ice. Man; of course; is the most serious threat. Inuits have traditionally hunted this species, but commercial over-hunting is a cause of concern. Human disturbance and pollution are also threats. The bodies of the Belugas resident in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Canada, contain so many contaminants that dead whales are treated as toxic waste.

Belugas are one of the few whales that are kept at aquariums and sea life parks. There, they are a popular attraction with their attractive colour, and their characteristicly fixed "smile" on their faces that is more pronounced than on a typical porpoise.

Female and calf

The Beluga, of course, has nothing to do with Beluga caviar, which is the roe of a fish, the Beluga sturgeon.