Antarctic Minke Whale (Balaenoptera bonaerensis)




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The Antarctic Minke Whale is more robust than the other large rorquals (large baleen whales). The rostrum of the Antarctic Minke Whale is very narrow and pointed, with a single ridge on the head (Perrin & Brownell 2002). The dorsal fin is tall and falcate (sickle-shaped) and positioned relatively far forward on the posterior third of the body (Perrin & Brownell 2002).

The Antarctic Minke Whale has a dark bluish-grey back, sharply contrasting the pale grey to white flanks and belly (Shirihai 2002). The lateral colouration is complex, including a crescent-shaped grey streak that extends up each side of the animal, above the flipper insertion and towards the dorsal midline where they meet (Best 1985). A pair of grey streaks extend posteriorly (towards the back) for about 0.6 m from the blowhole (Best 1985). The flippers are slim and pointed, with no white blaze on the upper surface. Some individuals have a two-tone light grey colour on their flippers. Both flipper colour patterns can be present in an individual (Best 1985). The underside of the flippers and the tail flukes is white (Shirihai 2002). Antarctic Minke Whales have asymmetrically coloured baleen, with the right side series having a larger number of white plates anteriorly than the left (Best 1985).

Calves are born at about 2.8 m in length, and grow at a rate of approximately 1 cm per day while suckling (Best 1982; Ivashin & Mikhalev 1978; Ohsumi & Masaki 1975). The maximum length of Antarctic Minke Whales appears to be around 9.8 m (Ohsumi & Masaki 1975).

Antarctic Minke Whales are not gregarious and tend to swim alone or in pairs, although large feeding groups of up to 400 individuals may form in the higher latitudes (Perrin & Brownell 2002). Immature Antarctic Minke Whales males may be more solitary than mature males, at least at higher latitudes (Perrin & Brownell 2002). Minke whales are known to be curious, often approaching boats from a distance (Perrin & Brownell 2002).

This species is classified as DATE INCOMPLETE according to the IUCN's Red List.
This species is classified as DATE INCOMPLETE according to the IUCN’s Red List.

PHYLUM: Chordata
CLASS: Mammalia
ORDER: Cetacea
FAMILY: Balaenopteridae
GENUS: Balaenoptera
SPECIES: bonaerensis

TOOTHED or TOOTHLESS (BALEEN): Toothless/baleen


HABITAT: Antarctic ocean. They have been recorded as far north as the equator on rare occasions.

LENGTH (maximum): 35 feet

WEIGHT (maximum): 20,000 lbs

RELATIVE SPECIES: Minke Whale, Dwarf Minke Whale

NEIGHBORING SPECIES: Blue, Fin, Humpback, Minke, Orca, Sei, Southern Right and Sperm.

PREDATORS: Humans, Killer Whales

THREATS: Nets, commercial whaling and attacks from Killer Whales.

DIET: Krill, plankton and small school fish such as anchovies, dogfish, cod and herring.

MANNER OF FEEDING: Lunging into large schools of krill and filtering out the water through baleen. Unlike other Minke Whales, they only eat krill because of its availability.

BEHAVIOR: Spy hopping through sheets of ice so they can see their surroundings. Behavior is the same as other Minke Whales.

REPRODUCTION: Become sexually mature between 3-8 years. Gestation is 10-11 months. Calves are weaned at 4-6 months of age, the shortest amount of time for any cetacean.

LIFE SPAN: 50-60 years


  • · The scientific names for minke whales translate to: “winged whale” (Balaenoptera), “sharp snout” (acutorostrata).
  • Minke whales received their common name from a Norwegian novice whaling spotter named Meincke, who supposedly mistook a minke whale for a blue whale!
  • In Antarctic waters, minke whales make up the majority of killer whales’ diets (up to 85 percent).
  • Unlike other Minke Whales, they do not have the distinguishing white band on their pectoral fins.