Minke Whale

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Common minke whale

The common minke whale or northern minke whale, (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), is a species of minke whale within the suborder of baleen whales.

Taxonomy

Balaenoptera acustorostrata - Zwergwalskelett.jpg

The common minke whale was first identified by Lacepede in 1804. There are several forms of common minke whale, including Scammon's minke whale (B. a. scammoni) from the North Pacific and the dwarf minke whale, from the Southern Hemisphere.

Until recently, all minke whales were considered a single species. However, the common minke whale was recognized as a separate species from the Antarctic minke whale based on mitochondrial DNA testing. This testing also confirmed that the Antarctic minke whale is the closest relative of the common minke whale, thus confirming the validity of the minke whale clade

Description

Cetacea_range_map_Minke_Whale.png

The common minke whale is the smallest of the rorquals, and one of the smallest baleen whales (second smallest only to the Pygmy Right Whale). Except for the dwarf form, length ranges from 7 to 9.8 meters and weight ranges from 5 to 10 tons. On average, females are about 0.5 meters longer than males. Newborns range from 2.4 to 3.5 meters. The dwarf form has a smaller adult length of up to 7.8 meters.

The back is dark grey and the belly white. All forms have a pale chevron above the flippers or behind the head. All forms also have a white or light marking on each flipper. On the dwarf form the white marking covers most of the flipper. On the northern forms, there is a distinct white band running horizontally through the middle of each flipper. This band is more grey in the Scammon's minke whales.

The common minke whale differs from the Antarctic variety in several aspects. The common species is slightly smaller than the Antarctic, which has much less white marking on the flippers. There are also less distinctive differences in body coloration and shape.