Brydes Whale

Common Name: Bryde's Whale

Class: Mammalia

Order: Cetacea

Suborder: Mysticeti

Family: Balaenopteridae

Genus: Balaenoptera

Species: Balaenoptera edeni



Bryde's 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 blue 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 minke whale.  The blue whale's scientific name is Balaenoptera edeni.  Its generic name, Balaenoptera, means "winged whale", which refers to the blue whale's dorsal fin.  Bryde's whale's specific name, edeni, means "Eden".  The whale's common name, Bryde's, is pronounced "broodus".  The whale was named for Johan Bryde, a Norwegian whaling pioneer in South Africa.  This species was once classified as two species, Balaenoptera edeni or Eden's whale and Baleanoptera brydei or Bryde's whale.  Once scientists determined these whales belonged to a single species, the scientific name first assigned to the species, Balaenoptera edeni, was kept.  However, the common distinction named for Johan Bryde remained.  Some scientists refer to the western Pacific and Indian Ocean populations of Bryde's whales as Pygmy Bryde's whales, recognized as Balaenoptera edeni.  In 2003, Japanese researchers claimed to have discovered a third genetically distinct Bryde's whale species, which they named Omura's whale, Balaenoptera omurai.  This species was named for the Japanese cetologist Hideo Omura.

Bryde's whales and sei whales are very similar in appearance.  Upon closer inspection, Bryde's whales have three ridges on their head, while sei whales have one ridge.  Bryde's whales may exceed 50ft in length and weigh 13 tons.  Female Sei whales are usually larger than males of the same age.  At least five different distinct populations of Bryde's whale exist.  Each varies in size and color, with some appearing remarkably similar to sei whales.


Bryde's whales are found in all oceans, but remain in primarily tropical waters.  Bryde's whales are a predominantly coastal species, although offshore populations are known to exist.  Their major food sources, krill and copepods, live in all regions.  Bryde's whales feed on small fish more often than other rorquals.  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 500-700 baleen plates.  These 16-17 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 prey remain inside, and are consequently swallowed.


Bryde's whale leads a solitary life.  However, small groups of 2-3 animals are also commonly observed.  This species does not appear to migrate.  The breeding location of this species is unknown.  Gestation lasts about 12 months.  Calves are about 13ft in length, weighing 2,000lbs at birth.  They nurse for six months.  Little is known about Bryde's whale breeding and calving.  Males reach sexual maturity at 8-13 years, with females maturing sexually at 7-10 years.


Bryde's whales are slimmer and have less blubber than blue whales, fin whales and sei whales.  Consequently, Bryde's whales were not hunted until blue whale, fin whale and sei whale populations were depleted.  After the Antarctic sei whale population crash of the early 1970's, Bryde's whale hunting began.  Bryde's whales were eventually granted protection, with a population of 90,000 animals remaining from an original population of 100,000.  A moratorium on all whaling has been established, and the greatest current threat to Bryde's whales is ocean pollution.


Content provided by Canisius College students under the direction of Michael Noonan, PhD.