Animal Species:Minke Whale
The Minke Whale is a small streamlined baleen whale.
Standard Common Name
The Minke Whale has a sleek pointed head with a diagnostic single longitudinal ridge, narrow pointed flippers each with a white stripe and a curved dorsal fin set well back on the body. This whale has an inquisitive nature, and often approaches boats and people in the water. The taxonomy of this species is being revised. There appears to be at least four forms, with one of these, the so-called Dwarf Minke of relevance to the Australasian area. The common name is thought to be derived from the Norwegian word 'minkehval'.
A very widespread species with a complex population structure. Seasonal changes in distribution are based on age, sex and breeding condition. Adults appear to congregate in the higher cold water latitudes while juveniles tend more to the temperate and tropical areas.
Feeding and Diet
Krill is the principal prey for Minke whales, especially in the Southern Hemisphere. They will also take small schooling fish. This is a largely solitary animals, seen alone or in small groups. Large aggregations of krill or fish however will draw in larger numbers of whales.
Although in the Southern Hemisphere the Minke whale is not considered a migratory species some movement of animals to lower latitudes occurs during winter when birth of young and mating takes place. The gestation period of about 10 months is shorter than other cetaceans. Time from birth to weaning is relatively short, about four months when they are about 4.5m long. Since sexual maturity is not reached until they are about 8m long.
The small size of this species may have saved it from the years of exploitation suffered by most other baleen whales. The various populations are in reasonably healthy numbers. This may not be the case in the future however, as its relative abundance in comparison with larger species, is used to support calls from some quarters to resume commercial whaling.
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- Bryden, M., Marsh, H. and Shaughnessy, P. 1998. Dugongs, Whales, Dolphins and Seals. A guide to the sea mammals of Australasia. Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, Australia.
- Menkhorst, P. 2001. A Field Guide to Mammals of Australia. Oxford University Press, Melbourne, Australia.
- Reeves, R. R., Stewart, B. S., Clapham, P. J. and Powell, J. A. 2002. National Audubon Society Guide to Marine Mammals of the World. Chanticleer Press, Inc New York, USA.