Antarctic Minke Whale

The Antarctic minke whale or southern minke whale (Balaenoptera bonaerensis) is a species of minke whale within the suborder of baleen whales. It is the second smallest rorqual after the common minke whale and the third smallest baleen whale. Although first scientifically described in the mid-19th century, it wasn't recognized as a distinct species until the 1990s. Once ignored by whalers due to its small size and low oil yield, it is now one of the mainstays of the whalingindustry alongside its cosmopolitan counterpart the common minke. It is the most abundant baleen whale in the world, numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

Antarctic Minke Whale
  • Size

    The Antarctic minke is among the smallest of the baleen whales. The longest caught off Brazil were an 11.9 m (39 ft). Off South Africa, the longest measured were a 10.6 m (35 ft). The heaviest caught in the Antarctic were a 9 m (29.5 ft). Calves are estimated to be 2.73 m (9 ft) at birth.

  • Feeding

    They feeds mainly on krill. During bouts of feeding they will lunge multiple times onto their side (either left or right) into a dense patch of prey with mouth agape and ventral pleats expanded as their gular pouch fills with prey-laden water. 

  • Life History

    Antarctic minke whales become sexually mature at 5 to 8 years of age for males and 7 to 9 years of age for females. Both become physically mature at about 18 years of age. After a gestation period of about 10 months, a single calf of 2.73 m (9 ft) is born – twin and triplet fetuses have been reported, but are rare. After a lactation period of about six months, the calf is weaned at a length of 4.6 m (15 ft). The calving interval is estimated to be about 12.5 to 14 months. Minke whales typically live for 30–50 years; in some cases they may live for up to 60 years.

  • Behavior

    The average group size in the Antarctic was about 2.4 (adjusted downwards for observer bias), with about a quarter of the sightings consisting of singles and one-fifth of pairs; the largest aggregation consisted of 60 individuals. Off South Africa, the average group size was about two, with singles (nearly 46%) and pairs (31%) being the most common – the largest was 15. Off Brazil, most sightings were of singles (32.6%) or pairs (31.5%), with the largest group consisting of 17 individuals.