Wildlife of the Week!

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©Five Star Whale Watching/Andrew Lees. A Minke Whale breaches high out of the Salish Sea in 2013. This is an incredibly unusual behaviour to witness from this species, as they are frequently surface shy and very elusive. Minke Whales may weigh 8-10 tons.

We hope that you have been enjoying our Wildlife of the Week series! We have been truly enjoying sharing some incredible Salish Sea creatures with you. Our fourth Wildlife of the Week spotlight focuses on a fascinating species of Baleen whale. Check out the photo of this whale- does the species look familiar? It is not a Humpback Whale, which is another Baleen whale seen on this coast. Hint: this whale is a slender, fast swimmer with the ability to reach swimming speeds up to 32 km/h. 

…..The Minke Whale is the smallest member of the Rorqual family, yet this species still measures between 26-33 feet long! Scientists think that there might be at least 2 or 3 species of Minke Whale in the world (Balaenoptera acutorostrata, Baleonoptera bonaerensis are recognized scientifically), as well as further subspecies. 

The Minke may be found in all oceans of the world, yet they tend to favour cold, northern waters of the world. 

The Minke Whale, like other Baleen whales, does not have teeth and instead uses baleen plates to filter out their prey from the water. Numbers of baleen plates may vary between Minke Whale species/subspecies. Prey includes crustaceans like krill and fishes (often schooling fishes). 

Baleen is made of keratin and is a hair-like material found on the top jaw of the whale’s mouth. It acts as a filter to sieve out the small creatures when the whale takes in (and then releases) large gulps of seawater. 

In some regions, the Minke Whale is migratory whereas in others the animal remains in a region year-round. 

Minke Whales of the Antarctic species do not have the white band seen on the flippers of other Minke Whales. The Minke’s dorsal (top) surface is typically a brown or black-grey color, with lighter greyish sides and a white belly. Different species/ subspecies have also been observed to show slightly different coloration patterns and body sizes. 

Females are larger than males, and produce calves about every two years; they have a gestation period of about 10-11 months. 

Who would like to test out their Minke Whale knowledge? Try out some trivia below! 

  1. In the Salish Sea and some other regions around the world, what is a known predator of the Minke? Hint: It is another type of marine mammal.  (ANS: KILLER WHALE/ ORCA). 
  2. True or False? Minke Whales nurse for over 1 year. (ANS: FALSE. They only nurse with their mothers, weaning at about 4-6 months). 
  3. True or False? Minke Whales may dive for up to 15 minutes. (ANS: TRUE). 

BONUS CHALLENGE: Minke Whales are often coined the nickname “Stinky Minkes”. Do you know why? 

(ANS: They are extremely difficult to observe/ watch as they are very surface-shy. The whale also has been recorded to have terrible breath due to bacteria living in their respiratory tract). 

Author: Alexa D./ Five Star Whale Watching

Want to know more about the Minke? Check out our References: 

“Minke Whale.” 2019. American Cetacean Society. https://www.acsonline.org/minke-whale

“Minke Whale.” NOAA Fisheries. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/minke-whale.

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