A student web page designed by Sarah Redding and Jody Shields
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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
Minke Whale Research in Australia
American Cetacean Society, Minke whale page
The Mammal Society, hear the Minke whale song
and Answers about toothed whales
to Marine Biodiversity index