Name: the fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) is the second-largest species on Earth after the blue whale.
Appearance: fin whales have long and slender bodies which are a brownish-grey colour on top and pale underneath. Given their size they are sometimes mistaken for blue whales. They can be recognised by their tall spouts, long backs, prominent dorsal fins, and two-part colouration.
Size: fin whales are closely related to blue whales and grow to enormous sizes. The largest-ever was reportedly over 27 metres long! The maximum recorded weight was 74 tonnes although it is thought they could reach up to 114 tonnes.
Diet: they are filter feeders, swallowing large numbers of small fish, squid, and crustaceans such as krill.
Did you know: despite their large size, fin whales are extremely fast and have the nickname ‘greyhounds of the sea’. They can reach speeds of up to 41 km per hour. This meant they were relatively safe from whaling ships in the 19th century as they could easily outrun the boats. However, the invention of steam-powered boats and harpoons which explode on impact meant they became a target in the later years of the whaling industry. As other whale species became overhunted, whalers turned to the still-abundant fin whales. It’s estimated that around 700,000 fin whales were killed in Antarctic whaling operations alone between 1904 and 1975. Nowadays fin whale populations are recovering, although it’s estimated that the population is only around 50% of the pre-whaling years due to the heavy impact of whaling and slow recovery rates.
Location: fin whales are found in all of the world’s major oceans, from polar to tropical waters. They are only absent from areas close to the pack ice at the poles and relatively small areas of water away from the open ocean.
Where to see Fin whales
According to reports submitted to WildSide, you can see fin whales in the following places:
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Photo credit: chris buelow under a Creative Commons licence from Flickr