Delphinapterus leucas - (Pallas, 1776)
Beluga
Other English Common Names: White Whale
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Delphinapterus leucas (Pallas, 1776) (TSN 180483)
French Common Names: béluga
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.102539
Element Code: AMAGD01010
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Mammals - Whales and Dolphins
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Mammalia Cetacea Monodontidae Delphinapterus
Genus Size: A - Monotypic genus
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder (editors). 1993. Mammal species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference. Second edition. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. xviii + 1206 pp. Available online at: http://www.nmnh.si.edu/msw/.
Concept Reference Code: B93WIL01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Delphinapterus leucas
Taxonomic Comments: Brennin et al. (1997) examined mtDNA variation in North American populations and detected two distinct groups, one occurring primarily from the St. Lawrence estuary and eastern Hudson Bay and the other primarily in western Hudson Bay, southern Baffin Island, western Greenland, the Canadian High Arctic, and the eastern Beaufort Sea
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 04Apr2016
Global Status Last Changed: 04Apr2016
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Nation: United States
National Status: N3N4 (19Feb1997)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N5 (14May2013)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
United States Alaska (S4)
Canada Labrador (SNR), Manitoba (S2), Newfoundland Island (SNR), Northwest Territories (S5), Nunavut (SNR), Ontario (S2), Quebec (S3), Yukon Territory (S4)

Other Statuses

Implied Status under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (USESA): PS
Comments on USESA: Cook Inlet population is listed endangered by NMFS (22 October 2008). Added to the FWS endangered list on 13 April 2011.
Implied Status under the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC):PS
IUCN Red List Category: NT - Near threatened
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species Protection Status (CITES): Appendix II

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent Comments: Arctic and sub-Arctic waters of North America and Eurasia. Southernmost regular range in the Western Hemisphere: St. Lawrence River estuary (isolated resident population), Gulf of Alaska, James Bay (Stewart and Stewart 1989). See Reeves and Mitchell (1989) for information on status in Ungava Bay and eastern Hudson Bay. See Richard (1993) for information on status in western and southern Hudson Bay. See Doidge and Finley (1993) for information on status of the Baffin Bay population. See also IUCN (1991) for further details regarding distribution.

Population Size Comments: Total population was estimated in the 1980s at around 62,000 to 88,000 individuals (Folkens 1984; see also Stewart and Stewart 1989); IUCN (1991) estimated world total of 50,000-70,000.

Overall Threat Impact Comments: Population decline in Gulf of St. Lawrence (from 5000 to 500) and elsewhere is attributed to loss of suitable habitat, pollution, and especially historic over-exploitation (Stewart and Stewart 1989, IUCN 1991, Dold 1993). This population shows a high rate of intestinal cancer, possibly related to water pollution (Farnsworth, NY Times, 22 August 1995). Lungworms may be an important cause of morbidity and mortality of young in the St. Lawrence estuary (Measures et al. 1995). The Southeast Baffin Island population is thought to be declining as a result of excessive harvest (Richard 1991). There is also concern that excessive harvest, especially in western Greenland, may be threatening the Baffin Bay population that summers around Somerset Island (Droidge and Finley 1992, 1993). Potentially threatened also by development of hydrocarbon resources and increased disturbance from ship traffic.

Short-term Trend Comments: Some populations are clearly very depleted and require adequate management for recovery (IUCN 1991). Stock that occupies western Hudson Bay in summer is thought to be large and stable, despite a substantial harvest; the effect of hydroelectric development on the estuarine habitat of this stock is unknown; status of the southern Hudson Bay stock should be reviewed when more information on its size, relationship to other stocks, and harvest levels becomes available (P. R. Richard, 1993 COSEWIC report; Richard 1993). The Southeast Baffin Island population is thought to be declining (Richard 1991).

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: Arctic and sub-Arctic waters of North America and Eurasia. Southernmost regular range in the Western Hemisphere: St. Lawrence River estuary (isolated resident population), Gulf of Alaska, James Bay (Stewart and Stewart 1989). See Reeves and Mitchell (1989) for information on status in Ungava Bay and eastern Hudson Bay. See Richard (1993) for information on status in western and southern Hudson Bay. See Doidge and Finley (1993) for information on status of the Baffin Bay population. See also IUCN (1991) for further details regarding distribution.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AK
Canada LB, MB, NF, NT, NU, ON, QC, YT

Range Map
No map available.


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
AK Anchorage (02020), Kenai Peninsula (02122), Matanuska-Susitna (02170)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
19 Upper Kenai Peninsula (19020302)+, Anchorage (19020401)+, Matansuka (19020402)+, Lower Susitna River (19020505)+, Redoubt-Trading Bays (19020601)+, Cook Inlet (19020800)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Reproduction Comments: Mates generally in spring. Gestation lasts 14-15 months. Single young (rarely 2); births peak in late March in western Greenland, late June in western Hudson Bay and Bering Sea, July in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Lactation lasts 20-24 months. Age of first pregnancy: 4-7 years (Stewart and Stewart 1989). Calving interval probably is 3 years for most adult females. Females live up to about 20 years, males to about 30 years.
Ecology Comments: Travels in small groups of 2-10, also forms summer congregations of hundreds or thousands. Mature males tend to travel together, as do females, calves, and immatures (Stewart and Stewart 1989).
Habitat Type: Marine
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: Population that summers around Somerset Island in eastern Canadian high arctic migrates through Lancaster Sound and winters mainly in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait (Droidge and Finley 1992, 1993). heavy pack ice and landfast ice; in spring may follow ice edges closely, penetrate areas with ice cracks (Stewart and Stewart 1989).
Marine Habitat(s): Near shore, Pelagic
Estuarine Habitat(s): Bay/sound, River mouth/tidal river
Riverine Habitat(s): BIG RIVER
Habitat Comments: Inhabits the open ocean as well as shallow coastal waters, rivers, estuaries; shallow waters such as estuaries of large rivers are used in summer.
Adult Food Habits: Invertivore, Piscivore
Immature Food Habits: Invertivore, Piscivore
Food Comments: Eats various benthic and pelagic prey in shallow and coastal waters; most important prey varies, includes capelin, various cods, sand lance, char, herring, cisco, whitefish, smelt, burbot, salmon, sculpin, decapods, squid, octopus.
Adult Phenology: Circadian
Immature Phenology: Circadian
Phenology Comments: Active day and night.
Length: 4300 centimeters
Economic Attributes
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Economic Comments: Long subjected to subsistence harvest, and formerly to commercial harvest, throughout range (IUCN 1991). Currently harvested by subsistence hunters (e.g., Alaskan natives and Canadian Inuit, and Greenland natives). Displayed in some marine aquaria.
Management Summary Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Use Class: Breeding
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: An area that is, or was, occupied by a recurring population during the breeding season (winter). Minimally, at least two and preferably several years of observation should be used to reliably identify significant, recurrent occurrences.
Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 50 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 50 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance arbitrary.
Date: 07Feb2002
Author: Cannings, S.

Use Class: Estuarine
Subtype(s): Molting area
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: An estuary that is, or was, predictably occupied by a population during the summer months. Minimally, at least two and preferably several years of observation should be used to reliably identify significant, predictable concentrations.
Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 20 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 20 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance arbitrary. Beluga enter river mouths annually, apparently to molt (Finley 1982; Stewart, in Wilson and Ruff 1999). Although these whales can move significant distances in a day, occurrences are delineated by the estuary boundaries, rather than by specific groups of whales.
Date: 07Feb2002
Author: Cannings, S.

Use Class: Nonbreeding
Subtype(s): Foraging concentration area
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: An area that is, or was, occupied by a recurring population during the nonbreeding season; excluding estuaries. Minimally, at least two and preferably several years of observation should be used to reliably identify significant, recurrent foraging concentrations, i. e. those occupied by feeding whales more than 10 days per year. In most cases, occurrences should not be extensive areas, but rather portions of such areas that stand out as strongly meeting the occurrence criteria. Year-to-year changes in prey distribution may mean that some key sites are not be occupied every year; however, occurrences should still be delineated where data indicates that the sites are important over the longer term.
Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 20 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 20 km
Separation Justification: Belugas can travel significant distances daily. However, occurrences are defined primarily on the basis of areas predictably supporting concentrations of prey (e.g. small fish) and feeding whales, rather than on the basis of distinct whale populations or specific feeding groups. Separation distance similarly refers to areas of concentrated foraging; arbitrarily set to 20 kilometers in order to delineate occurrences that are manageable for conservation of prey resource.
Date: 07Feb2002
Author: Cannings, S.
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 10Sep1997
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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