Minke Whale
Balaenoptera acutorostrata
A student web page designed by Sarah Redding and Jody Shields


Class: Mammalia
Order: Cetacea
Suborder: Mysticeti
Family: Balaenopteridae

Description:

The Minke whale, a member of the rorqual whale family, is the smallest of all the baleen whales. Minke whales grow up to 9 meters long and at full size weigh approximately 6 to 7 tonnes. Females are typically 1.5 meters longer than the males. Minke whales are stocky, yet streamlined and slender looking, dark gray on their back side and lighter shades underneath. They have a distinctively triangular, narrow and pointed head, and hence are often referred to as "sharp-headed finner and little piked whale". Minkes have two long flippers which grow to about 1/8 of their body size. A white band on each flipper distinguishes them from other whales in the rorqual family. Minke whales can live up to 50 years in the wild.

Feeding:

Minkes are carnivorous seasonal feeders and share the same diet as blue whales. The minke whale has about 300 pairs of short, smooth baleen plates, approximately 30 cm in length and 13 cm in width. Using their fine, creamy baleen bristles, minke whales sieve through the ocean water to filter out polar zooplankton and small fish. Sometimes minkes will chase schools of sardines, anchovies, cod herring, and capelin, coming up from underneath with their mouth gaping to catch a big meal. In order to let in all these fish at once, minke whales have 50 -70 grooves in their throat to allow for this expansion.

Behaviour:

Minkes are for the most part solitary animals, but are sometimes seen travelling in pods of 2 to 3. When food is plentiful, the minke whales will often gather in groups of 200 to 300. Minkes breath air at the surface of the water through two blow holes near the top of the head, but when they dive minke whales hold their breath for 20 to 25 minutes. The blow of a minke whale is relatively small compared to many of the great whale sin the ocean, as it only reaches a height of two meters.

Minkes usually swim between 5 and 24 km/hour. Minkes are known to approach moving vessels without warning, but are careful not to bowride ships. Some minkes have been seen keeping up with speed boats that move about 29-34 km/hour, however they only travel this speed when they are in danger!

Minkes are very vocal animals, that produce a series of grunts and thuds to communicate with other minke whales and to echolocate objects in their surroundings. The loudness of minke whale sounds has been compared to a jet plane taking off!

Distribution:

Minke whales exist in every one of the world's oceans with the exception of the polar oceans as they are only covered in a few centimetres of blubber. We don't blame them, wouldn't you rather be in the Caribbean than in the Arctic?

Breeding:

Minke whales breed while they are in warm waters in the late winter and early spring. The gestation period of minke calves is about 10 months, and the birth takes place near the surface of the ocean in shallow waters. A newborn calf usually surfaces to take it's first breath within the first 10 seconds of its life. New born calves are usually 2.8 meters long and weigh close to 1000 pounds. The baby will stay with its mother for 1 to 2 years or until the mother has another calf. Most minke whales reach puberty at 2 years of age.

Conservation status:

Minkes whales are listed on the endangered species list as a threatened species as there remains only approximately 800,000 minkes in the world. Some Japanese and Russian vessels are still known to hunt minke whales. Minke whales have been protected by international law since 1986, which will hopefully help to stop these countries from hunting these magnificent animals.

Check out this website for more information on Minke whales and more

Minke Whale Research in Australia

American Cetacean Society, Minke whale page

The Mammal Society, hear the Minke whale song


Questions and Answers about toothed whales

 to Marine Biodiversity index


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