Fin whale

The fin whale is one of the largest animals in the world. It is a fast and graceful whale that sometimes swims to fishing boats or tourist yachts. Fin whales are unique in their social structure and lifestyle nuances.

Origin of the species and description

Photo: Finval

Photo: Fin whale

Fin whale is a whale, which is also called minke whale or herring whale. The fin whale belongs to the minke whale family and is the closest relative of the largest creature on the planet – the blue whale. The fin whale itself ranks second in terms of gigantic size among animals.

The order of minke whales includes baleen whales of various sizes that live in various parts of the world. The family includes two large genera and 8-9 species. According to the classification of species, there are disputes among scientists, since some species are capable of interbreeding with each other, so it is difficult to attribute them specifically to one species.

These include:

  • humpback whale;
  • minke whale;
  • southern whale;
  • sei whale;
  • Bride’s minke whale;
  • Eden’s minke whale;
  • blue whale;
  • Omura’s minke whale is a new species discovered only in 2003. It is in disputed status;
  • fin whale.

Rine whales are so common and numerous that at least five species of these animals live in Russia alone.

Interesting fact: The fin whale is capable of crossing with many species of minke whales. They produce offspring that can also reproduce.

Rine whales are one of the smartest and most mysterious creatures on the planet. Due to their size and deep-sea lifestyle, whales are very difficult to study in their natural habitat, so all research at the molecular level has already been done on dead whales.

Scientists are eager to study the brains of these animals, as their social structure, communication patterns and attitudes towards people are an amazing fact in the wild. Striped whales are not at all aggressive towards people, but show interest in them as if they were their own kind. Among scientists, there is a version that the mind of minke whales is not inferior to the human one.

Appearance and features

Photo: What a fin whale looks like

Photo: What a fin whale looks like

Fin whales living in the Northern and Southern hemispheres differ slightly from each other in size. So, fin whales of the Northern Hemisphere have a length of 18 to 25 meters. Southern fin whales are larger – from 20 to 30 meters in length. It is noteworthy that female fin whales are larger than males – they seem to be more elongated, but their weight does not differ from the weight of males. Such sexual dimorphism is still a mystery, but scientists suggest that this is somehow related to the characteristics of the pregnancy of whales and their birth.

Video: Fin whale

Fin whales weigh approximately 40-70 tons. Despite the fact that fin whales are almost as long as blue whales (and sometimes there are individuals larger than blue whales), they weigh much less. Fin whales are lighter and leaner than blue whales, so they are more manoeuvrable. This body shape also allows fin whales to dive to even greater depths than blue whales.

Interesting fact: Fin whales also overtake “long whales” in length — sperm whales and bowhead whales, but also weighs less than them.

The color of fin whales is similar to the camouflage color of herring fish, but whales do not need to disguise themselves. Their back and upper part of the head is dark gray or dark brown, which in water resembles black. The inner part of the fins, the lower jaw, the back and the inner part of the tail are painted in white or light gray shades.

Fin whales differ from other types of minke whales by asymmetrical colors in the front of the body. The whale’s lower jaw is white on the right side, but dark on the left. The whalebone is also colored in a similar way – the whale’s soft “teeth” through which it passes food. And the mouth and tongue of the whale are painted the other way around – the right side is dark, and the left side is light. This mysterious color is attributed to a genetic mutation that has successfully taken root in whales during evolution. The jaw is riddled with numerous mobile folds that extend to the middle of the abdomen.

Interesting fact: Fin whales have a navel.

On fin whales polyps, crabs and other parasitic animals found on blue whales rarely stick. This is due to the high mobility of fin whales – they are fast and nimble, so it is simply inconvenient for parasites to live on such a dynamic surface.

Where does the fin whale live?

Photo: Fin Whale

Photo: Fin whale

Fin whales are divided into two subspecies, which differ from each other not only in size. Subspecies live in the North and South Poles, respectively, and never cross each other.

These are:

  • North Atlantic (northern) fin whale lives almost throughout the World Ocean, not only swimming in too warm waters. It leads a bottom lifestyle, surfacing only for the sake of breathing;
  • The South Atlantic (Antarctic) fin whale lives in both cold and warm waters, but also stays away from the equator. This subspecies is less common than the North Atlantic fin whale, but is more common as it occasionally appears near the coastline.

Fin whales live only in salt water. They cannot be found in lakes and rivers – they tend not to swim there, because they risk getting into shallow water. The easiest way to spot a fin whale is in the open ocean or sea.

In fact, fin whales are quite cautious creatures, preferring to avoid the shores. With the help of echolocation, they easily determine the location of the coast and bypass it. But sometimes, while in search of food, whales can swim close to the coastline.

In general, fin whales keep to the depths. There they get their food, breed and communicate with each other. Such a secretive lifestyle complicates the observation of these animals and slows down research on the behavior of whales.

Now you know where the fin whale is found. Let’s see what it eats.

What does the fin whale eat?

Photo: Fin whale from the Red Book

Photo: Fin whale from the Red Book

How and other baleen whales, fin whales feed on krill and plankton. A flock of whales finds a concentration of this food and slowly swims there, opening its mouth wide. Krill are sucked into the whale’s mouth by a funnel.

Interesting fact: Due to the pollution of the world’s oceans, whales are increasingly eating plastic and oil waste.

But fin whales are not just called herring whales. They are unique in that they can also eat small fish.

Their diet also includes:

  • herring;
  • capelin;
  • gerbil;
  • cod;
  • navaga;
  • squid.

This atypical eating behavior is difficult to justify. It is likely that the stomach of fin whales is adapted to the digestion of such solid food, and they also need a lot of protein in order to move and maneuver faster.

The fin whale hunting for squid is interesting – especially for the giant squid. Fin whales do not have sharp teeth like sperm whales, so they cannot fight squid. Their only way to feed is to suck a giant clam into their mouths, swallowing it whole. Such food is enough for a whale to digest for several weeks.

It has also been proven that eating fish is not accidental. Sometimes blue whales take fish along with krill without purposefully hunting for them. Fin whales intentionally find large schools of fish. First, a flock of whales swims around the fish, knocking it into a tight pile. Swimming to a close distance, the whales lie on their side and open their mouths, slowly swallowing several tons of fish at once.

This feature was noticed by sailors in the 20th century. When people were actively fishing, they noticed that whole flocks of fin whales swim next to the schools of fish, which, taking the opportunity, managed to pull fish out of the nets, depriving the fishermen of a significant part of the catch.

Character and lifestyle features

Photo: Fin whale

Photo: Fin whale

Fin whales are very hardy, so they swim several hundred kilometers every day in search of food. They lead a predominantly diurnal lifestyle – then they are actively searching. At night, they also continue to swim, but much more slowly – this is how whales sleep on the go.

Fin whales tolerate temperature fluctuations well, quickly adapting to new living conditions. Despite the fact that even the North Atlantic fin whales do not like warm waters, they live comfortably in their usual places, but already in conditions of elevated temperatures.

The average depth at which fin whales live is 150 meters. Despite the fact that fin whales, like other whales, form small herds of up to 12 individuals, they keep apart from each other, one by one. At a distance, they communicate with each other using echolocation. Fin whales also help each other in catching fish and plankton.

Whales are also curious. Being deep-sea animals, they can detect a boat on the surface of the water, so they swim up to the surface to look at an unknown object. Also, fin whales, like dolphins, love to swim near boats and even jump out of the water, creating waves and splashes.

These are very mobile and fast animals, capable of speeds up to 60 km/h. Without air, a fin whale can swim quietly for 15 minutes, after which it will begin to suffocate. Usually this time is enough to rise to the surface from a depth of more than 230 meters.

Social structure and reproduction

Photo: Fin whale, aka Herring Whale

Photo: Finval, aka Herring Whale

Whales do not reach sexual maturity at a certain age, but at a certain height. This once again confirms the theory that the body length of females is directly related to her reproductive functions. So the female reaches puberty with a body length of 18.5 m, and males – 17.7.

Whale courtship is going smoothly. Males swim around one female for a long time, courting her in every possible way and singing “songs”. The female chooses the male she likes the most, after which mating takes place and the male swims away.

Carrying a cub lasts a whole year. When the female is ready to give birth, she descends to the depths and waits for other females to help her with the birth. Female whales are very kind to each other and help in raising the whales.

When the female has given birth, she pushes the cub to the surface so that it takes its first breath. The whale in length does not exceed 6 meters, and its weight is about one and a half tons. Whale milk is very fatty and nutritious, and the mother feeds the cub with it until it grows to at least half. During the day, the cub drinks about 70 liters of mother’s milk.

When the kitten reaches a length of 12 meters, it separates from the mother and swims apart. Fin whales live at least 50 years, but this data is not accurate. There is evidence that individuals can live up to 115 years.

Natural enemies of fin whales

Photo: Fin Whale

Photo: Fin Whale

Fin whales are huge, which is why they have absolutely no natural enemies. No predator is able to cope with a whale in its natural habitat. However, fin whales can encounter great white sharks.

Despite the fact that giant whales are not of interest to this harsh ocean predator (the white shark simply does not perceive huge whales as food), sharks may pay attention to pups.

Relative to white sharks, fin whales are clumsy and slow, although they are the fastest whale of the minke family. A shark can kill a baby whale by making a few quick dashes and biting off heavy chunks of it. White sharks can exceed the length of the pups, as the largest individuals reach a length of eight meters.

Therefore, fin whale herds detect the presence of predators using echolocation and bypass them. White shark attacks on baby whales are extremely rare, so we can say that fin whales are not the targets of natural predators.

There is evidence that sick whales are washed ashore. It may not only be whales suffering from diseases – some evidence of “suicide” of whales is not justified. Then the whales become the food of absolutely any coastal fauna. Their bodies go to feed gulls, albatrosses, petrels; crabs and starfish cover them.

Population and species status

Photo: What a fin whale looks like

Photo: What a fin whale looks like

As of 1974 year, the fin whale population suffered a sharp decline. Initially, there were more than 460 thousand individuals of these animals, but a sharp jump in the population reduced them to 101 thousand. At the moment, the population of North Atlantic fin whales has about 10 thousand, while before there were more than 50 thousand individuals.

The reasons for the population decline are as follows:

  • whaling. It gained immense popularity a century ago, when whale oil and whalebone were hugely popular in the market. All sorts of medicinal properties were attributed to whale organs. Excessive fishing has led to the death of more than 58 thousand individuals of fin whales;
  • fishing. Fin whales need a huge amount of food. Fisheries that destroy herring, cod, halibut and many other fish species on an industrial scale deprive fin whales of their natural food;
  • pollution of the oceans. Fin whales are perfectly adapted to global warming, but cannot cope with the numerous waste that enters the ocean. A colossal amount of plastic waste was found in the stomachs of whales stranded ashore, which are not digested and clog the whales’ esophagus. Whales also swallow oil slicks, which leads to their death.

Fin whale protection

Photo: Fin whale from the Red Book

Photo: Fin whale from the Red Book

Since 1980, hunting for fin whales has been completely prohibited. The ban even extends to the indigenous peoples of the north, who used the fat and whalebone of fin whales in their everyday life. The fin whale will add to the Annex of the first and second Conventions on International Trade in Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. It is listed as an endangered species.

The strict ban also applies to areas where fin whales mainly live. Fishing is prohibited there, as the fish go to feed these animals. Fin whales have amazing reproductive abilities. Somehow, the females feel the decline in their species population. If the population is at a critical point, the females that feed the cubs can carry another calf right during the feeding period.

This shifts the seasonal breeding of fin whales. The average time it takes fin whales to reach sexual maturity shifts by six or even ten years. Fin whales, feeling threatened with extinction, may become pregnant earlier in order to replenish the population of their species.

Fin whale — an amazing animal that lives in almost all the waters of the oceans. They often swim up to boats and ships, showing themselves in all their glory. The population of fin whales is slowly recovering due to the conservation methods undertaken.

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