Youngest beluga dies at Vancouver Aquarium

The Vancouver Aquarium's youngest beluga whale died Sunday.

Tuvaq was a three-year-old calf.

"I was just doing some paperwork in the office and somebody ran in and said that, virtually instantaneously, he had stopped breathing, stopped moving, staff jumped into the water to support him and he was gone," said David Huff, the aquarium's veterinarian.

Just before his sudden death, Tuvaq ate some herring and was playing with other belugas.

Tuvaq was a "typical bratty little brother" to Keela, the aquarium's nine-year-old female calf. "He had not yet decided to become a well-trained whale and was constantly mischievous, constantly sticking his nose in where it shouldn't be," Huff said.

Beluga is Russian for "the white one," a government website says.

Belugas are a small Arctic whale that can grow to be more than four metres long, weigh up to 1,000 kilograms and live to be 50. Males reach sexual maturity at eight.

They are social, living in pods, and migrate up to 2,000 kilometres, often swimming up river estuaries in the summer.

They eat fish, squid and other small sea animals, and are themselves hunted by polar bears and killer whales.