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Minke Whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata

The Minke Whale is the second smallest of the baleen whales after the pygmy right whale –females measure about 7.3 to 8.8 meters and males are 6.7 to 8.4 meters long (Wilson and Ruff 1999). The Minke whale is also one of the most numerous species of whales. It feeds on krill and small fish that it catches by lunging or filter feeding. Minkes are usually seen alone and they can be secretive. They take one or two breaths at the surface without revealing much of spout and disappear underwater for several minutes.

Most, but not all cetacean taxonomists recognize two subspecies of Minke whale (reviewed by Horwood et al. 1989) - the North Pacific Minke whale (B. a. scammoni = B. a. davidsoni) and the North Atlantic Minke whale B. a. acutorostrata. Some scientists think there is a third subspecies of Minke whale known colloquially as the dwarf Minke whale found off Australia, South Africa, South Ameica and the South Pacific Islands. The Antarctic Minke Whale (B. bonaerensis) found in the southern hemisphere has recently been given full species status (Reeves et al. 2002).

Minke whales were too small, too fast, and carcasses sank when harpooned so the commercial whaling industry pursued large whales a century ago. However, its behaviour of entering bays and inlets resulted in Minke whales being hunted by native people over long periods. Bones found in archeological digs provide evidence for a harvest in the past and stir controversy about rights to a modern hunt (IUCN). Killer whales have long been known to prey on the Minke whale but rarely do large numbers of people witness a kill. In October 2002, four transient killer whales trapped and killed a Minke whale in Ganges Harbour, Saltspring Island, British Columbia while about 200 people from the town of Ganges watched from land meters away.


Baker, C.S., G. M. Lento, F. Cipriano and S. R. Palumbi. 2000. Predicted decline of protected whales based on molecular genetic monitoring of Japanese and Korean markets. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 267: 1–9.

Boyd, I. L., C. Lockyer and H. D. Marsh. 1989. Reproduction in marine mammals. Pp. 218-286 in J. E. Reynolds III and S. A. Rommel. Biology of marine mammals. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.

Dalebout, M.L., G.M. Lento, F. Cipriano, N. Funahashi and C.S. Baker. 2002. How many protected minke whales are sold in Japan and Korea? A census of microsatellite DNA profiling. Animal Conservation 5: 143–152.

Goto, M. and L. A. Pastene. 1997. Population structure of the western North Pacific minke whale based on an RFLP analysis of the mtDNA control region. Report of the International Whaling Commission 47: 531–537.

Hoelze, A. R. E., M. Dorsey and S. J. Stern. 1989. The foraging specializations of individual minke whales. Animal Behaviour 28:786-794.

Horwood, J. W., L. M. Leunissen and V. Insler.  1989. Biology and exploitation of the Minke Whale. CRC Press.  

Ivashin, M. V. and V. L. Zinchenko. 1982. Occurrence of pathological development of minke embryos of the southern hemisphere. Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission, Cambridge, UK.

Lynas, E. M. and J. P. Sylvetre. 1988. Feeding techniques and foraging strategies of minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) in the St. Lawrence River estuary. Aquatic Mmammals 14:21-32.

Reeves, R. R., B. S. Stewart, P. J. Clapham and J. A. Powell. 2002. Guide to marine mammals of the world. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

Wilson, D. E. and S. Ruff 1999. The Smithsonian book of North American mammals. University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver, BC



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