Friday, January 7, 2011
January 7, 2011 : Bowhead Whale
The bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) is a baleen whale of the right whale family Balaenidae in suborderMysticeti. A stocky dark-colored whale without a dorsal fin, it can grow to 20 meters (66 ft) in length. Estimated maximum weight of this thick-bodied species is 136 tonnes (134 LT; 150 ST), second only to the blue whale, although the bowhead's maximum length is less than several other whales. It lives entirely in fertile Arctic and sub-Arctic waters, unlike other whales that migrate to feed or reproduce. It is also known as Greenland right whale or Arctic whale. The bowhead is perhaps the longest-living mammal, and has the largest mouth of any animal.
The bowhead was an early whaling target. Its population was severely reduced before a 1966 moratorium. The population is estimated to be over 24,900 worldwide, down from an estimated 50,000 before whaling.
The bowhead whale has a robust, dark-colored body, no dorsal fin and a strongly bowed lower jaw and narrow upper jaw. Its baleen, the longest of any whale at 3 meters (10 ft), strains tiny prey from the water. The whale has a massive bony skull which it uses to break through the Arctic ice to breathe. Inuit hunters have reported them surfacing through 60 cm (24 in) of ice. The bowhead may reach up to 20 m (66 ft). The largest yet reported was 21.2 m (70 ft) m for an unweighed giant caught off Spitsbergen, Norway. Females are larger than males. Its blubber is the thickest of any animal, averaging 43–50 cm (17–20 in).