How long do they live? Thanks to an intriguing dissertation and the Alaska Science Forum, the oldest estimates are 114 [1] to 120 years old [2].

Where are they found? All over the ocean. There are two subspecies, one found in the northern hemisphere and the other in the southern hemisphere.

What do they eat? Fin whales use baleen plates to filter water and take in plankton, krill, fish and shrimp.

What do they look like? They’re giant and they are the second largest animal next to the blue whale. The Fin whale can reach 85 feet in length and weigh up to 73 tons [3]. See figures 1 and 2.

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Figure 1. Fin whales are huge!
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Figure 2. Fin whales are also beautifully streamlined and can swim very fast.

How do they reproduce? Fin whales reach sexual maturity between 6 and 12 years of age. This whale reproduces sexually and fertilization is internal. They are viviparous and give birth to live young and the mother nurtures the growing calf [4].

How do scientists know how old they are? Aspartic acid racemization [2] and by counting the waxy layers of the ear plugs [4], which sounds like a fairly gross job for some poor graduate student out there.

So what are we lacking? Universal empathy. Oh and there’s no nuclear genome information for Balaenoptera physalus on the NCBI. There is, however, information regarding the mitochondrial genome.

Conservation status: Endangered as indicated by the IUCN Red List. Why are they endangered? They’re big and rather gentle, so people eat them. They’ve been almost eaten into extinction.

Interesting facts: Fin whales and Blue whales sometimes mate and produce hybrid offspring [4].

 

  1. Rozell, N. 2001. Bowhead Whales May Be the World’s Oldest Mammals. http://www2.gi.alaska.edu/ScienceForum/ASF15/1529.html Accessed 9/21/2016.
  2. Age Determination by Aspartic Acid Racemization and Growth Layer Groups, and Survival Rates of Fin Whales (Balaenoptera physalus) and Harbour Porpoises (Phocoena phocoena). Master´s thesis by Nynne Hjort Nielsen. Accessed 9/20/2016.
  3. Lockyer, Christine. “Body weights of some species of large whales.” Journal du conseil 36.3 (1976): 259-273.
  4. NOAA Fisheries. Office of Protected Resources. Fin Whale. http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/mammals/cetaceans/finwhale.htm. Accessed 9/21/2016.