Fin Whale

The fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus), also called the finback whale, razorback, or common rorqual, is a marine mammal belonging to the suborder of baleen whales. The American naturalist Roy Chapman Andrews called the fin whale "the greyhound of the sea... for its beautiful, slender body is built like a racing yacht and the animal can surpass the speed of the fastest ocean steamship."

Long and slender, the fin whale's body is brownish-grey with a paler underside. At least two recognized subspecies exist: the North Atlantic and the Southern Hemisphere. It is found in all the major oceans, from polar to tropical waters. It is absent only from waters close to the ice pack at the poles and relatively small areas of water away from the open ocean. The highest population density occurs in temperate and cool waters. Its food consists of small schooling fish, squid, and crustaceans including copepods and krill.

Fin Whale
  • Size

    Fin whales are the second-largest species of whale. A newborn fin whale measures about 6–6.5 metres (20–21 ft) in length and weighs approximately 1,800 kilograms (4,000 lb). Adults can weigh between 80,000-160,000 pounds (40-80 tons).

  • Feeding

    The fin whale is a filter-feeder, feeding on small schooling fish, squid and crustaceans including copepods and krill.

  • Life History

    Mating occurs in temperate, low-latitude seas during the winter, followed by an eleven month to one year gestation period. A newborn weans from its mother at 6 or 7 months of age when it is 11 metres (36 ft) to 12 metres (39 ft) in length, and the calf accompanies the mother to the summer feeding ground. Females reproduce every 2 to 3 years, with as many as 6 fetuses being reported, but single births are far more common. Females reach sexual maturity at between 6 and 12 years of age at lengths of 17.7–19 m (58-62.5 ft) in the Northern Hemisphere and 20 m (65 ft) in the Southern Hemisphere.

    Full physical maturity is attained between 25 and 30 years. Fin whales live to 94 years of age, although specimens have been found aged at an estimated 135–140 years.

  • Behavior

    The fin whale is one of the fastest cetaceans and can sustain speeds of between 37 kilometres per hour (23 mph) and 41 kilometres per hour (25 mph) and bursts up to 46 kilometres per hour (29 mph) have been recorded, earning the fin whale the nickname "the greyhound of the sea".

    Fin whales are more gregarious than other rorquals, and often live in groups of 6–10, although feeding groups may reach up to 100 animals.

    When feeding, they blow 5-7 times in quick succession, but while traveling or resting will blow once every minute or two. On their terminal (last) dive they arch their back high out of the water, but rarely raise their flukes out of the water. It then dives to depths of up to 470 metres (1,540 ft) when feeding or a few hundred feet when resting or traveling.