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Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus)

Fin wha­le

Fin whale

Descrip­ti­on: Fin wha­les are the second lar­gest wha­le spe­ci­es after the Blue wha­le. Fema­les reach 24 met­res body length and up to 75 tons weight; males reach a size of 22 met­res. The body is long and slim, with a dark-grey upper side and a pale under­si­de. The sick­le-shaped dor­sal fin is far back at three quar­ters of the body length. The asym­me­tric colou­ra­ti­on of the head is an important dia­gno­stic fea­ture: The left side is dark-grey, the lower part of the right side is white. Also the baleen is dark on the left and pale on the right side. Fin wha­les have a strong blow, up to six met­res high. Distin­gu­is­hing them from other wha­les can be tri­cky.

Dis­tri­bu­ti­on / migra­ti­on: Fin wha­les occur in all of the world’s oce­ans. They spend the win­ter in tem­pe­ra­te waters whe­re mating and birt­hing take place, but pre­fer the rich fee­ding grounds of high lati­tu­des during the sum­mer. The north Atlan­tic popu­la­ti­on win­ters in the open sea, pos­si­bly in the lati­tu­des bet­ween Spain and the Gulf of Mexi­co or even in the Medi­ter­ra­ne­an. During the sum­mer, they can be seen in Spits­ber­gen, espe­ci­al­ly off the west coast in the area whe­re the con­ti­nen­tal shelf drops down to the deep sea basin, but they can be seen any­whe­re, inclu­ding coas­tal waters and fjords. They are most com­mon clo­ser to East Green­land.

Bio­lo­gy: Fin wha­les tend to stay in smal­ler groups, but both sin­gle ani­mals and lar­ger herds occur, if food avai­la­bi­li­ty is good. Cows and bulls go sepa­ra­te ways. They are fast swim­mers and can reach up to eight knots (14 kilo­me­t­res per hour) while tra­vel­ling and up to 14 knots (27 km/h) during sprints. Fin wha­les rare­ly dive lon­ger than 15 minu­tes or deeper than 200 met­res on their search for plank­ton, which is their exclu­si­ve diet.

Mis­cel­la­neous: This lar­ge wha­le spe­ci­es has been hun­ted exten­si­ve­ly sin­ce the inven­ti­on of the explo­si­ve har­poon in the late 19th cen­tu­ry. The glo­bal popu­la­ti­on may be around 75,000 ani­mals, of which about 25,000-30,000 are in the North Atlan­tic. They are glo­bal­ly pro­tec­ted, with the excep­ti­on of limi­t­ed hun­ting in West Green­land, and num­bers are incre­asing, alt­hough the­re is some loss as bycatch in fishing nets. Over­fi­shing of food resour­ces and envi­ron­men­tal toxins are cur­rent dan­gers. The latest thre­at for the­se and other wha­les is the LFAS sys­tem (Low Fre­quen­cy Acti­ve Sonar) of the US Navy, which crea­tes incre­di­ble sound pres­su­res of up to 215 deci­bels, mea­ning that the noi­se at a distance of as much as 480 kilo­me­t­res is still 140 deci­bels, equi­va­lent to a rif­le shot.

The life expec­tancy of the­se maje­s­tic ani­mals is clo­se to a cen­tu­ry. Hybrids bet­ween Fin and Blue wha­les have been seen.



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last modification: 2014-10-27 · copyright: Rolf Stange