BOWHEAD WHALES – Balaena mysticetus

BOWHEAD WHALES

Bowhead whales facts: Bowhead whales grow to a length of 46 to 65 feet (14 to 20 meters) and can weigh as much as 112 tons (102 metric tons). They have the longest of all whale jaws and can have as many as 350 baleen plates in their mouth. They have no dorsal, or back, fin, but they do have a muscular bulge around the blowhole. They are almost entirely black except for a white patch at the front of their jaw. The bowhead has longer baleen than any other whaleits baleen can measure 25 feet (4.5 meters) long.

Geographic range: Bowhead whales are found mostly in the northern polar regions.

Bowhead whales habitat: Bowhead whales are accustomed to the icy waters found in the northern polar region and can navigate waters where there is a lot of ice.

What does bowhead whales eat: Bowheads feed both near the surface and on the ocean floor. This gives them a highly varied diet of small marine animals. They eat as many as sixty different species.

Behavior and reproduction: Bowhead whales swim slowly and migrate with the forming and melting of ice in the northern pole region. In females pregnancy lasts fourteen months, and young are fed for a year after birth.

Bowhead whales and people: Inuit in Alaska have hunted and eaten bowhead whales for centuries. During the nineteenth century, bowhead whales were hunted commercially by a number of countries. This commercial whaling was one of the reasons that people first began to explore the Arctic region.

Conservation status: It is estimated that 10,000 bowheads still exist, and they are considered at low risk for extinction. However, certain populations have been greatly diminished and it is questionable whether the few animals left in these areas will be able to recover their once great numbers.