Baleen whales are divided into three groups based on their feeding strategies. The rorquals, such as Humpback and Blue Whales, feed by gulping a large mouthful of food and water and expanding the throat pleats that extend to their navel like a balloon. Then they push the water out through their baleen plates with their tongues, and the food gets trapped behind the baleen. Another type of baleen whale is the skimmer, which includes Right and Bowhead whales. As they swim, water and zooplankton flows through a gap in the front of their 14-foot-long baleen plates, the food gets trapped inside the baleen, and the water flows out through gaps on the sides of their mouths. The Gray Whale has a third, unique feeding strategy. They feed on shrimp-like animals living in the mud in shallow water by turning on their sides and slurping the mud through the side of their mouths.
A Minke (pronounced mink-ey) Whale was spotted today by Fastcat near Hein Bank.
The Minke can be curious, and has been known to approach ships, even at times keeping up with moving vessels. Often, however, minkes spend relatively little time at the surface. It may be hard to see a minke at sea because its blow is rarely visible and it tends to disappear quickly after exhaling. Since it is relatively small, it may be hidden in a choppy sea. These attributes make them very hard to spot, even by the trained eye.
The minke whales is the smallest member of the rorqual family of whales (those whales with baleen, a dorsal fin, and throat pleats). The minke has 280 to 300 yellowish-white baleen plates, usually no more than 11 inches in length, on each side of its upper jaw. Its body is slender and streamlined. Like all rorquals, the minke has a series of 50 to 70 ventral grooves, or pleats, that expand during feeding.
Adult males average about 8 m (26 feet) with a maximum length of 9.4 m (31 feet), while adult females average 8.2 m (27 feet) with a maximum length of 10.2 m (33 feet). Both males and females weigh about 10 tons. Minke whales feed primarily on krill in the southern hemisphere and on small schooling fish (capelin, cod, herring, pollock) or krill in the northern hemisphere. Minke Whales can sometimes become prey to Transient Orcas (Marine Mammal eating Killer Whales).
This afternoon a Humpback Whale was reported near Church Point, a little West of Race Rocks.
The shape and color pattern on the humpback whale's dorsal fin and flukes (tail) are as individual in each animal as are fingerprints in humans. The discovery of this interesting fact changed the course of cetacean research forever, and this form of research known as "photo-identification," in which individuals are identified, catalogued, and monitored, has led to valuable information about such things as humpback whale population sizes, migration, sexual maturity, and behavior patterns.
The head of a humpback whale is broad and rounded when viewed from above, but slim in profile. The body is not as streamlined as other rorquals, but is quite round, narrowing to a slender peduncle (tail stock). The top of the head and lower jaw have rounded, bump-like knobs, each containing at least one stiff hair. The purpose of these hairs is not known, though they may allow the whale to detect movement in nearby waters. There are between 20-50 ventral grooves which extend slightly beyond the navel.
Its flippers are very long, between 1/4 and 1/3 the length of its body, and have large knobs on the leading edge. The flukes (tail), which can be 18 feet (5.5 m) wide, is serrated and pointed at the tips.
Adult males measure 40-48 feet (12.2-14.6 m), adult females measure 45-50 feet (13.7-15.2 m). They weigh 25 to 40 tons (22,680-36,287 kg). Humpback whales feed on krill, small shrimp-like crustaceans, and various kinds of small fish. Each whale eats up to 1 and 1/2 tons (1,361 kg) of food a day. As a baleen whale, it has a series of 270-400 fringed overlapping plates hanging from each side of the upper jaw, where teeth might otherwise be located. These plates consist of a fingernail-like material called keratin that frays out into fine hairs on the ends inside the mouth near the tongue.
The waters off Victoria are well known for being one of the best areas in the world for sighting Orcas, but our local waters also attract a number of different species of Baleen Whales. We are so fortunate to be able to observe these incredible marine mammals in their natural environment.