Species B. physalus
Subspecies B. p. physalus, B. p. quoyi
Fin Whale Basics
The fin whale is a big baleen whale that may be found in practically every ocean on the planet. This enormous creature can live up to 90 years and grow to about 90 feet in length, making it one of the world’s largest creatures, second only to the blue whale, with which it shares a genus.
Fin Whale Description
The fin whale is massive, reaching about 100 feet in length and weighing around 190 tonnes. Female baleen whales, like all baleen whales, are often larger than males. This makes it the largest animal to ever live on the planet. The whale’s body is long and slender towards the back and tail. Their skin is mottled brownish-gray in hue, with a lighter tint on the ventral side (underside). They have two massive pectoral fins and a large mouth coated with baleen plates for krill and other zooplankton eating.
Fin Whale Distribution and Range
Fin whales can be found in almost all of the world’s oceans, with the exception of the polar areas. During the winter, they often migrate between their summer eating sites in the north or south and their nesting grounds closer to the equator. Between the Gulf of Mexico and the Mediterranean Sea, northward to Baffin Bay and Spitsbergen, there is a North Atlantic population.
Fin whales can be found in the North Pacific between Baja California, Mexico, and Japan, as well as the Chukchi Sea and the Arctic Ocean. They’re common on North America’s west coast, particularly in California, Oregon, and British Columbia, as well as in the Gulf of Alaska. They’ve also been seen feeding south of Hawaii, prompting some scientists to speculate that some fin whales migrate there to mate and nurse their young in the fall and winter.
Fin whales have been spotted in the South Pacific Ocean, but nothing is known about their migration patterns. They can be found near New Zealand and along the west and south coasts of South America, such as in Peru and Chile. Fin whales can also be seen farther south, in Antarctica, and in the Indian Ocean, around the coasts of Sri Lanka, India, and Malaysia.
To maintain their gigantic size, fin whales require a lot of food, and their activities are mostly dictated by this need. They are frequently seen in waters where their food is in large concentrations, like during the typically abundant summer months at higher latitudes.
Fin Whale Diet and Predators
Fin whales move around the oceans looking for food, spending their summers in higher latitudes. They eat small schooling fish, squid, and a variety of crustaceans, including copepods and krill, which are little shrimp-like plankton creatures. Long, plate-like structures in the lips of fin whales and other baleen whales filter their food from the water as they swim. With their jaws wide, they move through vast schools of prey, gathering anything they can, even water. Then they’ll close their mouths and use their tongues to force the water out while the baleen plates hold their meal.
The fin whale must consume thousands of pounds of food every day to maintain its gigantic size. During the feeding season, some people can consume up to 4–6 tonnes of food every day for several months. Fin whales are thought to migrate between fruitful polar areas in the summer and more tropical regions in the winter, where they give birth and nurse their offspring, despite the fact that their migration patterns are unknown.
Due to its vast size, the adult fin whale confronts few natural predators. Orcas will attack fin whales in groups on occasion, focusing on calves and younger animals.
The fin whale was formerly abundant in all of the world’s oceans, but by the end of the nineteenth century, whaling fleets had practically wiped it off. More than 700,000 fin whales were slaughtered in Antarctica alone between 1904 and 1975. Another 55,000 people died in the North Atlantic Ocean between 1910 and 1989.
Fin whales are usually found alone, but they can also be seen in couples or small groups of 6-10 individuals. Their life history is unknown, but it is thought that they live for over 90 years and attain sexual maturity between the ages of 15 and 30.
Fin whales have a gestation period of 10–12 months. Mothers have one calf that they suckle for up to seven months. The calf will most likely be weaned when going to their summer grazing grounds, but it may travel with its mother’s herd for several years until sexual maturity.
Due to little understanding of the fin whale’s life history, determining its conservation status can be challenging. The species is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species due to its sluggish reproductive rate and many threats from humans and climate change.
Fin whales are threatened by a variety of factors. Despite a hunting prohibition implemented in the 1970s and 1980s, the species still confronts numerous anthropogenic (man-made) difficulties. Iceland and Norway, for example, have opposed the moratoriums imposed by the International Whaling Commission and continue to hunt fin whales in small numbers. Vessel collisions are rather regular and can harm or kill whales of several kinds, including fin whales.
They’re also prone to becoming entangled in abandoned fishing gear, which can limit their capacity to forage and lead to famine. Noise pollution from human navigation and communications devices in the ocean is also a danger, as it disturbs whale migration patterns and their capacity to communicate with one another. Finally, the impacts of climate change are harmful to the species, as they are to many other species.
Fun Facts about the Fin Whale
The fin whale is not as well-known as the blue whale, which is related to it. It is, nevertheless, nearly as big and has a streamlined body shape. There are many interesting facts to learn about this species, which is the world’s second-largest animal.
Despite their size, fin whales are parasitized by a variety of species, the majority of which are tiny. Pennella balaenopterae, a parasitic copepod, is frequently observed on the flanks of fin whales. They bury themselves in their blubber and feed on the whale’s blood.
Fin whales’ fins and flukes are home to other species, such as the pseudo-stalked barnacle Xenobalanus globicipitis. The acorn barnacle Coronula reginae, which lives on the skin of fin whales, and the stalked barnacle Conchoderma auritum, which lives on the baleen of the whale or the acorn barnacle itself, are two more barnacle species found on fin whales.
The harpacticoid copepod, Balaenophilus unisetus is even more dangerous to fin whales. This species has been found in large numbers in fin whales taken off the coast of northwest Spain. Haematophagus spp., which also colonises fin whale baleen, eats the whale’s red blood cells, whereas B. unisetus eats the baleen itself.
Fin whales are also home to the remora (Remora australis) and the amphipod Cyamus balaenopterae, both of which feed on their skin. The enormous nematode (Crassicauda boopis) infects whales’ blood vessels, causing renal artery inflammation and possibly kidney failure. C. crassicauda, its smaller relative, infects the lower urinary system and can cause a variety of health concerns.
The Lowest Frequency
Male whales make long, booming, low-frequency sounds like other whales. Blue and fin whale vocalisations are the lowest-frequency noises produced by any mammal. The majority of noises are frequency-modulated (FM) down-swept infrasonic pulses ranging from 16 to 40 hertz, which are generally below the human hearing range.
When fin whale noises were initially captured, scientists had no idea that the whales were making these extremely loud, long, pure, and constant vocalisations. The sounds were initially thought to be the result of an equipment malfunction, geophysical phenomena, or even Soviet Union Navy activity. Eventually, experts proved that the noises were definitely fin whale vocalisations.
The hurdles of merely recognising these nomadic critters to ascertaining their distribution and range show the difficulty of investigating them. Fin whales are more prevalent north of 30 degrees of latitude. However, because it is difficult to identify fin whales from Bryde’s whales at lower latitudes, there is much uncertainty over their presence.
Indeed, comprehensive ship surveys have led researchers to the conclusion that fin whales in the western North Atlantic’s summer feeding area is mostly between 41°20’N and 51°00’N. They can be found from the beach to the 1,000 fathom (1,800 m) contour within this region.