Photo Taken by: Brocken Inaglory
Minke Whale Introduction
In the category of Baleen Whales, you have the Minke Whale. The name is after a Norwegian whaler by the name of Meincke. When he first saw this species, he thought it was a Blue Whale. They are the second smallest Baleen Whale species, with only the Pygmy Whale being smaller than they are. They are very good swimmers, and can swim up to 24 miles per hour.
Minke Whale Description
The females are just a bit larger than the males when fully grown. The females can be up to 24 feet long and the males up to 23 feet in length. They can weigh as much as 5 tones. They have a body that is small and slender. They have a long snout, and when they surface out of the water, that is the first thing that is visible.
They vary in color and can be found in shades of purple, black, or gray. Those that live in the Northern Hemisphere have a white band found on each of their flippers. They feature from 240 to 360 Baleen Plates on each side of the mouth. They have long dorsal fin and two blowholes.
Minke Whale Distribution
The open sea seems to be the location that the Minke Whales prefer the most. However, they have quite a vast distribution out there overall. They are found living in the tropics as well as the poles. They will migrate for feeding and for mating purposes.
Minke Whale Behavior
Diving deep is a common endeavor for the Minke Whale. Before they dive, they jump in the air, arch their back, and they may roll in the air before they enter the water again. They are able to stay under the water for up to 15 minutes before they must come up again for air. However, they usually come back up for air between 6 and 12 minutes.
They are often seen floating around on pieces of ice in some locations such as the Arctic and Antarctica. They seem to be very curious about boats, and may get very close to them. They seem to prefer the temperate waters ,but there are decent numbers of them that live in the tropic and the sub-tropical waters. They have also been seen living both close to the coast and deeper out in the water.
They tend to stay in small groups of up to 4, but there are times when they are seen in loose groups of up to 400. This is typically around feeding areas and has to do more with their basic needs being met than any type of desire for socialization. They do vocalize a great deal with various grunts, calls, and clicks
Minke Whale Feeding
They do have a complex and well designed feeding strategy in place. The volume of numbers can work to their benefit when it comes to successfully getting their prey. Working side by side, they will lunge at schools of fish and consume them along with taking in volumes of water. The water is expelled and the prey remain for them to swallow. They consume a variety of prey including crustaceans, plankton, and small fish. Krill seem to make up the majority of their diet. Sometimes, they will consume small seabirds that just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. They are looking for their own prey when they become the prey.
Minke Whale Reproduction
The Minke Whale is mature for mating between the ages of 3 to 8 years. Size seems to be more of a factor for mating though than age. Typically, they will mate when they are approximately 23 feet long. There isn’t much information available about the mating rituals of them. While mating can take place any time of the year, summer seems to be the peak of it.
After mating, it takes about 10 months for the young calf to be born. They can be from 8 to 11 feet long. They will consume milk from their mother for the first 5 to 10 months of life. Females will usually have a calf every 2 years. The average lifespan is 30 to 50 years, however some have been identified as being at least 60 years old.
Minke Whale Conservation Status and Threats
This particular whale species is considered to be of least concern in terms of overall population and conservation. Even so, there are efforts in place to limit hunting and to help with reducing the number of accidents with vessels in the water.
Whaling hasn’t been a huge problem for them like it has been for other species of whales. It is believed their smaller size made them not as desired by those that were hunting as they could find more value with the larger sized whale species. Pollution is also a problem that has been addressed for the survival of the Minke Whale. There is insufficient data at this time to determine the estimated population.