Common Name: Minke Whale
whales belong to the Mammalian Order Cetacea, in the suborder
Mysticeti. All baleen whales belong to the suborder Mysticeti,
which is Latin for "mustached whales". The minke whale belongs to
the rorqual family, Balaenopteridae. The word "rorqual" means "tube
whale or furrowed whale", referring to the pleats on the lower jaws
of rorquals. All rorquals have baleen, a dorsal fin and throat
grooves. Other members of this family include the humpback whale,
fin whale, and blue whale. The blue whale's scientific name is
Balaenoptera acutorostrata. Its generic name, Balaenoptera,
means "winged whale", which refers to the minke whale's dorsal fin.
The minke whale's specific name, acutorostrata, means
"pointed nose". The minke whale is the smallest rorqual species.
Minke whales may are about ft in length and tons in weight. Female
minke whales are usually larger than males of the same age. Some
researchers recognize two species of minke whale, a northern minke
whale or Balaenoptera acutorostrata, and an Antarctic
minke whale or Balaenoptera bonarensis. A population
of minkes inhabiting the Great Barrier Reef, off the coast of
Northern Australia, have been recognized as dwarf minke whales.
Their status as a separate species is debatable, but such a distinct
population is certainly worthy of notation.
dorsal fin of the minke whale is very similar to that of the pygmy
right whale's fin. This has resulted in the misidentification of
pygmy right whales as minke whales. The identifying characteristic
of the mink whale are the thick white bands on each of the whales
pectoral fins. Minke whales grow to about 20ft in length and five
tons in weight. Female minke right whales are slightly larger than
males of the same age.
whales are found in coastal waters of all oceans. Whales of the
Northern Hemisphere feed on a variety of food sources, including
plankton, squid, cod, sardines, herring, and other small fish. The
minkes of the Southern Hemisphere feed only on plankton. As the
whale opens its large mouth to gulp up the prey, the pleats of its
lower jaw expand to contain the large volume of water. The whale
then presses its tongue up against the roof of its mouth, straining
the water through its 300 baleen plates. These 11 inch plates are
composed of keratin, the same substance of fingernails and hair.
The ends of baleen are brush-like, preventing the prey from
escaping. The copepods remain inside, and are consequently
whales are fast swimmers, attaining speeds of 15-21 miles per hour.
Whales of the Northern Hemisphere migrate from cooler northern
waters to warmer equatorial waters in the autumn, returning to the
cool northern waters in the spring. The whales of the Southern
Hemisphere migrate from cooler southern waters to warmer equatorial
waters in the spring, returning to the cool southern waters in the
autumn. Groups of 6-7 are not uncommon. Mating and birthing occurs
while the whales are in warm waters. The whales do not feed during
the breeding season. Gestation lasts ten months. Newborn calves
are 8 feet in length. Calves nurse for 6 months and reach sexual
maturity as early as five years for males and six years for
females. Minke whales are estimated to live about 40 years.
As larger rorqual
populations decreased from the whaling industry, minke whale
populations increased. Minke whales of the Southern Hemisphere
number about 700,000, those of the western North Pacific about
25,000, and those of the North Atlantic about 100,000. The human
fishing industry also competes with minkes for fish species and