Critter of the Week: Minke Whale

    CONSERVATION STATUS
      SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION
      KINGDOM: ANIMALIA
      CLASS: MAMMALIA
      SUBCLASS: EUTHERIA
      ORDER: ARTIODACTYLA
      SUBORDER: MYSTICETI
      INFRAORDER: CETACEA
      FAMILY: BALAENOPTERIDAE
      GENUS: BALAENOPTERA
      SPECIES: B. ACUTOROSTRATA
      BINOMIAL NAME: BALAENOPTERA ACTUOROSTRATA 
        MINKE WHALE RANGE
          The Antarctic minke whale is one of two species of minke whales, the other being the Atlantic minke whale. It was not recognized as its own distinct species until the 1990s and is the second smallest baleen whale. Antarctic minke whales are found primarily in the Southern Hemisphere, but small pods have been occasionally seen in the North Atlantic. 

            Scientists don’t know a lot about the mating behavior in Antarctic minke whales, but they know that the whales can give birth every year; however, it’s common for them to breed less than that. The females will remain pregnant for about 10 months where she’ll then give birth to one calf. This calf is born over 8 feet long and will stay with their mother for up to two years, while the father provides no parental care. 

             

             

            The Antarctic and Atlantic minke whales used to exist together, but split from each other almost 5 million years ago during a disruption of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. Both whales look similar with their sleek, torpedo-shaped bodies; however, the Atlantic minke whale is a little smaller and has a white patch on its flipper. Antarctic minke whales have also been known to have a more prominent blow coming from either of their two blowholes.

            Minke whales are categorized as baleen whales since they have around 300 baleen plates in their mouth, which is made up of the protein that is found in human fingernails. The Antarctic minke whale displays an impressive feeding style as it is has the fastest lunge rate observed compared to other baleens. The Antarctic minke whale will swim quickly and engulf mainly krill into their mouths as many as 24 times per dive. To compare, blue whales only lunge four times each dive.

             

             

            Antarctic minke whales are usually solitary or can be found in small pods of 2-4 whales. The largest recorded sighting was 60 Antarctic minke whales! The minke whales will communicate with the group through a variety of sounds such as whistles, clicks, grunts, and incredibly loud songs. These songs are usually around 150 decibels, which is as loud as a jet taking off, and can be heard for miles! Below is a picture of a pod of dwarf minke whales.