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Minke Whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata)


Breaching Minke Whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata)

Breaching Minke Whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata)

© Blue Ocean Society
The minke (pronounced “mink-ee”) whale, is a streamlined baleen whale found in most of the world’s oceans.


Minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), are the smallest baleen whale in North American waters and the second-smallest baleen whale worldwide. They can reach lengths up to 33 feet and weigh up to 10 tons. They are also called the little piked whale, lesser rorqual and little finner. They have a very pointed rostrum, which is often the first thing seen when a minke whale surfaces.

Minke whales have the countershading present in many other whale species, with a dark gray back and white underside. The pectoral fins, or flippers, of minkes in the northern hemisphere have a white patch on them.



Minke whales are cetaceans that belong to the Suborder Mysticeti, the baleen whales. Baleen whales have hundreds of baleen plates hanging from their upper jaw that allow the whale to separate its prey from the ocean water. Minke whales are part of the group of baleen whales called the rorquals, and have pleats in their throat that expand when the whale is feeding. Minkes are the smallest rorqual. Minke whales have about 500 baleen plates and feed primarily on crustaceans (e.g., krill), plankton and small schooling fish.


Minke whales are distributed throughout the world’s oceans in tropical to polar waters. Most migrate seasonally, breeding in warmer areas in the winter and feeding in colder areas during the summer.

Northern minkes are found in the North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, from the arctic to the equator, depending on the season. Antarctic minkes are found in waters around Antarctica in the summer and closer to the equator in the winter.


Minke whales reach sexual maturity at 5-8 years. The gestation period is about 10 months, after which the female gives birth to a single calf that is about 8-10 feet long and weighs 750-1,000 pounds. Calves nurse for about 6 months. The lifespan of a minke whale is thought to be about 50 years.


Minke whales make several different types of sounds, which vary with the species and geographic area. Sound types include “clicks,” “grunts,” “belches,” “pulse trains,” “ratchets,” “thumps,” and particularly mystifying sounds called the “boing,” and the “Star-wars vocalization.”


The minke whale population is considered stable, with estimates of about 1,000,000 worldwide. Minkes are still hunted by several countries, including Japan, despite a moratorium on whaling that has been in place since the 1980's.


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