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Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus)

Rough-toothed Dolphin (Steno bredanensis)

All text on this page is copyright protected: © 2014 Kelvin Aitken.
All rights reserved. Students may use this information for personal research only. Not for commercial use.

Order: Cetacea
Family: Balaenopteridae
Genus: Balaenoptera
Species: physalus
Taxonomic name: Balaenoptera physalus
Other Common Names: Finback Whale, Finback Rorqual.

Fin Whales belong to the Balaenopteridae or Rorqual family of whales.

They are 6.5 meters long when born in winter and grow to 27 meters.

Fin Whales are found in all oceans and temperature zones in both hemispheres but being more common in temperate and polar waters. They can be found close to shore, in land-bound gulfs and harbours to open oceanic areas.

This baleen whale is very slender with a distinctive colour pattern with the lip of the lower jaw being black on the left hand side and white on the right. This asymmetric colour pattern may extend up onto the upper lips. The back is brownish-black to grey on the back with no mottled pattern, as found on the similar Blue Whale. The ventral surfaces of the belly, flukes and pectoral fins are white and a pale chevron is usually clearly visible behind the twin blowholes. There is a small curved dorsal fin set well back towards the wide flukes between which is a distinctive ridge running down the spine.

The Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus) is the second largest whale species and can be confused with the larger Blue Whale do to its similar shape, large size and overlapping range. However the colouration as mentioned above and the narrow pointed rostrum of the Fin Whale as opposed to the U-shaped rostrum of the Blue Whale, even with a similar single rostral ridge, clearly separates the two species. The asymmetric lip colouration is unique to this species.

Fin Whales show their small dorsal fin upon surfacing. Their blow is a tall single cone-shaped column. They are one of the fastest of the whales, possibly eclipsed only by the Sei Whale, travelling at speeds over 32 km/hr earning them the name “Greyhounds of the Sea”. They are know to breach, the largest whale to do so, in a spectacular splash like their smaller Humpback Whale cousins. Fin Whales feed on a wide variety of fish, krill and various invertebrates diving to well over 200 meters for their prey.

Their often near-shore habitat has enabled whale watch companies to have occasional contacts, much to the delight of their customers.


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