Number of species in this family: 8 species in 2 genera
- Megaptera novaeangliae. Humpback whale
- Balaenoptera acutorostrata. Common minke whale
- Balaenoptera bonaerensis. Antartic minke whale
- Balaenoptera edeni. Bryde’s whale
- Balaenoptera omurai. Omura’s whale
- Balaenoptera borealis. Sei whale
- Balaenoptera physalus. Fin whale
- Balaenoptera musculus. Blue whale
- The body is streamlined, the snout pointed, the throat and chest grooved.
- The dorsal fin is hooked and set far back on the body.
- The tail is slightly notched at the mid-line, and scalloped along the posterior edge.
- The cervical vertebrae are not fused.
- The baleen plates are broad and short, the left and right rows being joined anteriorly.
- The animals are typically grey on the dorsal surface, with some white on the ventral surface; but Megaptera novaengliae humpback may be black above and below, with white flippers.
- Members of the family feed on krill and small fish, and occur in both hemispheres. They grow to 22 to 98 feet (7 to 30 m) depending on species.
- In this family of whales females are slightly larger than males.
- Southern hemisphere animals tend to be larger than those in the northern hemisphere.
- This family is known as ‘rorquals’, the Norwegian term for ‘furrow whales’.
- When they eat they hold enormous volumes of water in their throats before forcing the water through their baleen plates to filter out fish or krill.
- The blue whale was not hunted by Yankee whalers because of its speed and power, so the whalers went after slower whales like sperm, right and bowhead.
- The size of a Blue whale at birth is 20-28 ft (6 – 8.5 meters) long
- The Sei whale is the fastest whale reaching 35 mph (64km per hour)
- The Fin whale is known as “the Greyhound of the sea”
- Distribution is worldwide:
- Blue, Fin, Humpback, and the Sei Whales are found in all major oceans;
- Common and Antarctic Southern Minke Whale species are found in all the oceans of their respective hemispheres;
- Bryde’s Whale and Omura’s Whale occur in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans, being absent only from the cold waters of the Arctic and Antarctic.
Threats to survival
- Things that are harmful to these whales are pollution, hunting/whaling, and human disturbance.
- Ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear also pose a major threat, killing several whales each year.
- Carwardine, Mark. Whales Dolphins and Porpoises London: Dorling Kindersley Publishing, Inc, 1995. Print
- “Society for Marine Mammalogy – List of Marine Mammal Species and Subspecies” Society for Marine Mammalogy – Home. N.p, n.d. We. 8Mar. 2012
Researched and written by Alfredo Parrilla, NBWM Apprentice, March 2012