Minke Whale Facts | Pictures

Minke Whale, Balaenoptera acutorostrata Common Names: the lesser rorqual, little pike whale,

Kindgom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Cetacea
sub-Order: Mysticeti
Family: Baleaenopteridae
Species: Balaenoptera acutorostrata


General Description – The Minke whale is the most abundant species in a group of whales known as the baleen whales (those which have no teeth.). It is one of the smallest members of this group, weighing in at about seven tons, and measuring an average length of nine metres. It is bluish-gray in colour with white underparts. A distinctive feature of this mammal is the white band located across the upper side of the pectoral flippers. Another key characteristic of the Minke whale is the grooves which extend from the chin, all the way to the chest, enabling the whale to open its mouth extremely widely. The long streamlined shape of the whale’s body allows it to attain swimming speeds as high as 21miles per hour. (Normally Minkes swim at speeds ranging from three to sixteen mph.) Minke whales use a special type of vocalization with which to communicate with one another: loud grunts and rasps, in the 100-200 Hertz range.

Geographical Distribution and Habitat Requirements– There are three geographically isolated populations of Minke whales, those in the North Atlantic, North Pacific, and the Southern Hemisphere. In the summer, Minkes migrate to higher and colder latitudes, while in the winter, they migrate to lower and warmer latitudes. Energy requirement is dependent on water temperature; it is higher at low temperatures and lower at high temperatures. The occurrence of the whale in the Bay of Fundy is reported to be common. The Minke has also been spotted in the Passamaquoddy Bay.

General Biology– Minke whales feed on zooplankton, fish such as sardines, cod, and salmon, and on various crustaceans. Instead of teeth, Minke whales have hundreds of thin plates hanging from the upper jaw, collectively called the baleen. This structure functions as a sieve: when the whale opens its mouth, gulping a large quantity of water and fish, the baleen pushes the water out, and retains the fish. Male and female Minke whales reach sexual maturity at six and seven years, respectively. Their breeding season occurs from late winter to early spring, a period during which the species migrates to warm waters. The gestational period lasts for about ten months, and when the baby Minke is born, mother and calf stay together for approximately one year. The life expectancy of the Minke whale is 50 years.

Conservation– According to the IUCN, the Minke whale is not considered to be an endangered species. Due to its relatively small size, this whale is uneconomical to harvest, which may explain its abundance

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