Minke whale is the name describing two species of
whale, the common minke whale, or northern minke whale
(Balaenoptera acutorostrata) and the Antarctic minke
whale, or southern minke whale (Balaenoptera bonaerensis).
The name "minke whale" derives from the Norwegian
word for the species, minkehval. Minke whales are
the most abundant whale of their taxonomic suborder,
with a conservation status of least concern, and can
be found near the surface of all oceans and seas with
the exception of polar seas.
Minke whales are baleen whales, meaning that they
have a system of many bristle-like baleen plates suspended
from their jaws. Minke whales use baleen to facilitate
feeding; to eat, each whale opens its mouth underwater
to allow surrounding water to enter, then filters
water back out of its mouth through baleen so that
only small organisms on which the whale feeds remain.
Minke whales feed on krill, small fish, and plankton.
Minke whales are among the smallest baleen whales,
measuring up to 33 feet in length and typically weighing
between seven and a half and 13 tons. Minke whales
resemble dolphins in shape. They are purple-black
or dark grey in color, with white or light grey undersides
and fluked tails, sickle-shaped dorsal fins, two blowholes,
50-70 grooves on their throats, and pointed snouts.
Common minke whales have white bands on their flippers.
Though they can remain underwater for 20-25 minutes,
minke whales normally dive for 10-12 minutes before
seeking air. Underwater, minke whales can travel at
speeds of up to 21 miles per hour for short distances,
though they normally swim at speeds of between three
and 16 miles per hour. Minke whales tend to swim more
slowly while feeding, usually at speeds of between
one and six miles per hour.
Minke whales are generally solitary, but may travel
in small pods of two to three whales. They vocalize
to communicate or as echolocation, and can produce
sounds of up to 152 decibels. Minke whales communicate
using a series of grunts, clicks, thuds, and other
sounds. Though they are not highly social animals,
minke whales are not shy, and have been known to approach
Minke whales arrive at sexual maturity between the
ages of 6 and 8. Minke whales mate most often in the
winter and early spring, after which the gestation
period is 10 months. Females give birth in warm, shallow
waters. Newborn calves nurse for five to 10 months,
but may remain with their mothers for a year or longer.
It is believed that female minke whales give birth
every two years. Minke whales are known to live for
over 20 years.