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Bowhead Whale

Bowhead Whale
Latin Name

Balaena mysticetus

Group Name

Marine Mammals

Taxonomy details


Bowhead whales are distributed throughout the world's arctic regions, but in far fewer numbers than in recent centuries. Today, they are found in the Canadian Arctic from the Bering Sea to the Beaufort Sea in the west, and along the south and west coasts of Banks Island, in Amundsen Gulf, and along western Tuktoyaktuk Peninsula. Bowhead Whales occur in marine waters within areas ranging from open water to thick, pack ice. They break through ice over 20 cm thick with the crown of the head to breathe, and can navigate and communicate under extensive ice fields using their sophisticated acoustic sense.

Species Description

Bowhead Whales are large baleen whales with a barrel-shaped body and a very large head (about 30% of total body length). The blubber layer is thick, from 5.5 cm on the chin to about 28 cm over the trunk reaching a maximum of 50 cm. Flippers are small and paddle-shaped and they have no dorsal fin or dorsal hump. Calves are 4 to 4.5 m long at birth and brownish black in colour and adults are black in colour with patches of white around their chin and tail. They grow and develop slowly, reaching sexual maturity at about 25 years of age. Longevity is estimated to be between 50 and 75 years, with some individuals possibly reaching over 100 years of age.

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