Minke whale

Balaenoptera acutorostrata

Minke whales are one of the smallest of the baleen whales at around 32 feet in length and around 20,000 pounds. Minke whales are dark in color (black or dark grey), have a white underside with a black band that is behind the pectoral flippers, and a curved dorsal. The pectoral flippers are about half white, also known as “minke mittens”, and are distinctive of the species. Feeding mostly on krill or small schooling fish, minke whales tend to feed alone or in small groups. Minke whales tend to migrate between a summer feeding location and a winter feeding location, but some minke whales do not migrate at all. The common minke whale is currently of least concern for endangered species but minke whales especially in the Antarctic face a high threat of whaling and entanglement.

Click here for footage from the back of Antarctic minke whales.



Fin whale

Balaenoptera physalus

Fin whales are around 85 feet in length and weigh about 105 tons. Fin whales are grey in color with light grey to white undersides. Their dorsal fin is short and pointy. Fin whales also are distinctive by a chevron pattern, which is a wavy pattern on the right side of the head before the pectoral fin. Fin whales use baleen to feed on krill, small schooling fish, and copepods (small crustaceans). Fin whales can be found alone or in groups of 2 to 7 individuals and can swim up to 40 mph! Fin whales are currently listed as a vulnerable species.

Fun Fact: Fin whales are the only whales that have asymmetrical pigmentation, which  means Fin whales have white on the right of their jaw and black on the left.



Humpback whale

Megaptera novaeangliae

The humpback whale’s Latin name (Megaptera novaeangliae) means “Big Winged New Englander,” named for their massive pectoral fins on the sides of their bodies. Humpback whales are around 60 feet in length and can weigh up to 40 tons. Humpback whales are dark in color and have a white underside. Humpback whale flukes (tails) are how we can identify each individual whale, much like the human fingerprint. Humpback whales feed on prey such as small schooling fish (herring) or krill. Humpback whales show a wide range of behaviors such a breaching (fully jumping out of the water) or slapping their tail or fins on the water. Humpback whales often show their tails while diving. The whales migrate between a winter breeding ground and summer feeding ground. For our local humpback population, they travel between the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Maine.



North Atlantic right whale

Eubalaena glacialis

North Atlantic right whales are around 55 feet in length and weigh about 60 tons. Dark in color with white undersides, North Atlantic right whales do not have a dorsal fin on their backs. North Atlantic right whales are identified by callosities, which are large spots on the top of their rostrum (or face). These callosities are created by whale lice which attaches to the raised callosity tissues. North Atlantic right whales feed on mainly krill, as well as many other types of copepods (zooplankton). North Atlantic right whales are generally seen feeding and swimming at the surface. They are known to be slow swimmers, which puts them at a higher risk for boat strikes. North Atlantic right whales have a long history with human interaction, as their name “The Right Whale” comes from historical whaling and being the best whale to hunt because they are slow swimmers and float when dead. North Atlantic right whales now face new threats such as climate change, ship strikes, entanglement, and pollution. There are currently around only 400 individual North Atlantic right whales left and they are listed as an endangered species by the IUCN.

Click here to read about 8th graders who are working to bring a better understanding for the species through film.

Click here to learn how researchers identify individual North Atlantic right whales.

Click here to watch a informational video by researchers at the New England Aquarium.



Blue whale

Balaenoptera musculus

Blue whales are between 70 to 90 feet in length and can weigh up to a massive amount of 187 tons! Blue whales are long and slim and, as they are named after, have a blue-grey coloring. Migrating between a winter breeding ground and a summer feeding ground, blue whales are very rare to see in Maine waters. Blue whales feed on mostly krill, but also occasionally feed on small fish and copepods and can eat around 6 tons of food a day. While blue whales are the largest animal to have ever lived on our planet, they are not fast swimmers and usually swim around 5 miles per hour and up to 20 miles per hour for short spans. Blue whales are so big that they are about twice the length of a T-Rex! Blue whales are also one of the loudest animals ever, creating noises such as pulses, groans, and moans, that can sometimes be heard around 1,000 miles away. Blue whales can be easily spotted by their triangle-shaped blow. Unfortunately, Blue whales are an endangered species and there are only around 10,000-25,000 individuals left in our oceans today.

It is said that blue whale hearts are as big as a car, but is it true? Click here to find out.

Click here to watch a National Geographic video on the blue whale.



Sei whale

Balaenoptera borealis

Sei whales are around 40 to 60 feet and up to 100,000 pounds (50 tons). They are mostly dark blue, grey, darker grey, or black with a lightly colored underside. Sei whales have a distinctive dorsal fin that resembles a keel of a surfboard, unlike a fin whale which has a more curved dorsal fin. Sei whales feed either alone or in small groups on prey such as krill or copepods or small schooling fish. Sei whales can swim up to 35 miles per hour and dive up usually for 5 to 20 minutes. Sei whales come up to the surface of the water when both their dorsal fin and blowhole break the surface at the same time. Sei whales are an endangered species.

Click here to see a research team off the coast of the Falkland Islands who are observing and collecting data from the local population of sei whales.