Minke whale (pron.: //), or lesser rorqual, is a name given to two species of marine mammal belonging to a clade within the suborder of baleen whales. The minke whale was given its official designation by Lacepède in 1804, who described a juvenile specimen of Balænoptera acuto-rostrata. The name is a partial translation of Norwegian minkehval, possibly after a Norwegian whaler named Meincke, who mistook a northern minke whale for a blue whale.
Most modern classifications split the minke whale into two species;
- Common minke whale or northern minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), and
- Antarctic minke whale or southern minke whale (Balaenoptera bonaerensis).
Taxonomists further categorize the common minke whale into two or three subspecies; the North Atlantic minke whale, the North Pacific minke whale and dwarf minke whale. All minke whales are part of the rorquals, a family that includes the humpback whale, the fin whale, the Bryde's whale, the sei whale and the blue whale.
Writing in his 1998 classification, Rice recognized two of the subspecies of the common minke whale - B. a. scammoni (Scammon's minke whale) and a further (taxonomically) unnamed subspecies found in the Southern Hemisphere to which he gave the common name the dwarf minke whale (first described by Best, 1986).
On at least one occasion, an Antarctic minke whale has been confirmed migrating to the Arctic. In addition, at least one wild hybrid between a common minke whale and an Antarctic minke whale has been confirmed.
The minke whales are the second smallest baleen whale; only the pygmy right whale is smaller. Upon reaching sexual maturity (6–8 years of age), males measure an average of 6.9 m (23 ft) and females 7.4 m (24 ft) in length, respectively. Reported maximum lengths vary from 9.1 to 10.7 m (30 to 35 ft) for females and 8.8 to 9.8 m (29 to 32 ft) for males. Both sexes typically weigh 4–5 t (3.9–4.9 long tons; 4.4–5.5 short tons) at sexual maturity, and the maximum weight may be as much as 10 t (9.8 long tons; 11 short tons).
The minke whale is a black/gray/purple color. Common minke whales (Northern Hemisphere variety) are distinguished from other whales by a white band on each flipper. The body is usually black or dark-gray above and white underneath. Minke whales have between 240 and 360 baleen plates on each side of their mouths. Most of the length of the back, including dorsal fin and blowholes, appears at once when the whale surfaces to breathe.
Minke whales typically live for 30–50 years; in some cases they may live for up to 60 years.
The whale breathes three to five times at short intervals before 'deep-diving' for two to 20 minutes. Deep dives are preceded by a pronounced arching of the back. The maximum swimming speed of minkes has been estimated at 38 km/h (24 mph).
The gestation period for minke whales is 10 months, and calves measure 2.4 to 2.8 m (7.9 to 9.2 ft) at birth. The newborns nurse for five to possible 10 months. Breeding peaks during the summer months. Calving is thought to occur every two years.
Population and distribution
|Multimedia relating to the minke whale|
Note that whale calls have been sped up to 10x their original speed.
Minke whales are widely distributed throughout the world, commonly found from the poles to the tropics, but they prefer the open sea.
In the northeastern Atlantic, the total population of minke whales is estimated to be on the order of 103,000 (95% confidence interval, International Whaling Commission Scientific Committee 2008.)
Recent genetic studies of Antarctic minke whales indicate the current population is likely to be lower than, or equal to historical levels. According to analyses by Ruegg, et al., the long-term population size of the Antarctic minke whale is estimated at 670,000 individuals. The authors also argue, “The research suggests that direct competition for food is not keeping the [other species] large whale populations from recovering".
Final circumpolar estimates from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) IDCR/SOWER population surveys (1978/79-2003/04) were 338,000 — only 39% of the 1985/86-1990/91 surveys. As of January, 2010, The IWC states it is "unable to provide reliable estimates at the present time" and that a "major review is underway by the Scientific Committee."
As of 2008, one estimate submitted to the IWC Scientific Committee by the Japanese government researchers suggested that for Southern Hemisphere (CPIII with common Northern Boundaries) is 665,074. In the early 1990s, the IWC Scientific Committee agreed minkes in the Southern Hemisphere numbered 760,000 (CPII), which the Japanese whaling industry currently uses as the (2005) estimate. In 2000, however, the Committee withdrew this advice in light of new survey data suggesting 50% lower population than in the 1980s.
The IUCN Red List labels the northern species as Least Concern and the southern as Data Deficient. COSEWIC puts both species in the Not At Risk category . NatureServe lists them as G5 which means the species is secure on global range . CITES, on the other hand, lists both species in Appendix I (threatened), with the exception of the west Greenland stock, which is given in Appendix II (trade controls required). The dwarf minke whale (B. acutorostrata subspecies) has no population estimate, and its conservation status is categorized as Data Deficient.
Whaling was mentioned in Norwegian written sources as early as the year 800, and hunting minke whales with harpoons was common in the 11th century. In the 19th century, they were considered too small to chase, and received their name from a young Norwegian whale-spotter in the crew of Svend Foyn, who harpoooned one, mistaking it for a blue whale and was derided for it.
By the end of the 1930s, they were the target of coastal whaling by Brazil, Canada, China, Greenland, Japan, Korea, Norway, and South Africa. Minke whales were not then regularly hunted by the large-scale whaling operations in the Southern Ocean because of their relatively small size. However, by the early 1970s, following the overhunting of larger whales such as the sei, fin, and blue whales, minkes became a more attractive target of whalers. By 1979, the minke was the only whale caught by Southern Ocean fleets. Hunting continued apace until the general moratorium on whaling began in 1986.
Following the moratorium, most hunting of minke whales ceased. Japan continued catching whales under the special research permit clause in the IWC convention, though in significantly smaller numbers. The stated purpose of the research is to establish data to support a case for the resumption of sustainable commercial whaling. Environmental organizations and several governments contend that research whaling is simply a cover for commercial whaling. The 2006 catch by Japanese whalers included 505 Antarctic minke whales.
Although Norway initially followed the moratorium, they had placed an objection to it with the IWC and resumed a commercial hunt in 1993. The quota for 2006 was set at 1,052 animals, but only 546 were taken. The quota for 2011 is set at 1286. In August 2003, Iceland announced it would start research catches to estimate whether the stocks around the island could sustain hunting. Three years later, in 2006, Iceland resumed commercial whaling.
Due to their relative abundance, minke whales are often the focus of whale-watching cruises setting sail from, for instance, the Isle of Mull in Scotland, County Cork in Ireland and Húsavík in Iceland, and tours taken on the east coast of Canada. Minke whales are frequently inquisitive and engage in 'human-watching'; however older minke whales are not as inquisitive as younger ones. In contrast to spectacularly acrobatic humpback whales, minkes do not raise their flukes out of the water when diving and are less likely to breach (jump clear of the sea surface). This, combined with the fact that minkes can stay submerged for as long as 20 minutes, has led some whale-watchers to label them 'stinky minkes'.
In the northern Great Barrier Reef (Australia), a swim-with-whales tourism industry has developed based on the June/July migration of dwarf minke whales. A limited number of reef tourism operators (based in Port Douglas and Cairns) have been granted permits by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to conduct these swims, given strict adherence to a code of practice, and that operators report details of all sightings as part of a monitoring program. Scientists from James Cook University and the Museum of Tropical Queensland have worked closely with participating operators and the Authority, researching tourism impacts and implementing management protocols to ensure these interactions are ecologically sustainable.
In 2010, a minke whale swam for two hours with a surfer who was stand-up paddle surfing from Santa Catalina Island to Dana Point in Southern California. The whale swam close to her, rolled around repeatedly alongside her, and blew bubbles beneath her board.
2007 Amazon incident
In November 2007, a minke whale ran aground on a sandbar in the Amazon jungle some 1,600 kilometers (990 mi) from the ocean. Scientists said the whale was 5.5 m (18 ft) long. The whale beached near Santarém in Pará state, Brazil's Environmental Protection Agency said. Its corpse was discovered the following week "by local people who reported it to the authorities."
- Arnason, U., Gullberg A. & Widegren, B. (1993). "Cetacean mitochondrial DNA control region: sequences of all extant baleen whales and two sperm whale species". Molecular Biology and Evolution 10 (5): 960–970. PMID 8412655. http://mbe.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/10/5/960. Retrieved 2007-07-13.
- It had been inaccurately described by the Danish zoologist Johann Christian Fabricius in 1780, who assumed it must be an already described species, assigned his specimen to Balaena rostrata, a name, however, that was already in use.
- Lacepède, Histoire naturelle des cétacées. (Paris, 1804).
- Modern orthography makes it Balaenoptera acutitostrata.
- "Dictionary.com". http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/minke. Retrieved 2007-08-30.
- Mead, J. G.; Brownell, R. L., Jr. (2005). "Order Cetacea". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 723–743. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. http://www.bucknell.edu/msw3.
- "Antarctic minke whales migrate to the Arctic". Whales On Line. February 3, 2011. http://bed2.gremm.org/eng/pag.php?PagRef=Nws&NwsId=4475. Retrieved 2011-06-15.
- Glover, K., et al (2010). Migration of Antarctic Minke Whales to the Arctic. 5. PLoS ONE. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0015197. http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0015197. Retrieved 2011-06-15.
- N. Eriksen, Bente Pakkenberg (January 2007). "Total neocortical cell number in the mysticete brain". Anat. Rec. 290 (1): 83–95. doi:10.1002/ar.20404. PMID 17441201.
- http://www.acsonline.org/factpack/MinkeWhale.htm American Cetacean Society: Minke Whale
- Ruegg K., Anderson E., Baker C.S., Vant M., Jackson., and Palumbi S.R., "Are Antarctic minke whales unusually abundant because of 20th century whaling?", Molecular Ecology, 2010. available at http://lenfestocean.org/publications/minke_whales.html
- T.A. Branch (2006). "Abundance estimates for Antarctic minke whales from three completed circumpolar sets of surveys, 1978/79 to 2003/04". IWC SC paper SC/58/IA18: 28.
- "Whale Population Estimates". http://www.iwcoffice.org/conservation/estimate.htm. Retrieved January, 2010.
- Hiroshi Okamura and Toshihide Kitakado. "Abundance Estimates of Antarctic Minke Whales from the Historical IDCR/SOWER Survey Data Using the OK Method". http://www.iwcoffice.org/_documents/sci_com/SC60docs/SC-60-IA8.pdf. Retrieved 2010-01-06.
- Branch & Butterworth 2001
- Joseph Horwood, Biology and exploitation of the minke whale (CRC Press) 1989:3.
- Tok bare halve hvalkvoten - lofotposten.no
- Samme hvalkvote som i år - www.p4.no
- Aldhous, Peter (10 May 2007). "High value of whale meat costs minkes in Korea". New Scientist 194 (2603): 10. doi:10.1016/S0262-4079(07)61160-9. http://environment.newscientist.com/article/mg19426034.100-high-value-of-whale-meat-costs-minkes-in-korea.html.
- Look out, it's Stinky Minke - there she blows!, independent.co.uk, July 31, 2005
- California surfer receives whale of an escort during marathon paddle, grindtv.com, April 1, 2010
- Duffy, Gary (17 November 2007). "Whale found deep in Amazon jungle" (web). BBC News, Sao Paulo. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7099625.stm. Retrieved 2007-11-17.
- "Whale lost in Amazon found dead" (web). BBC News. 21 November 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7105578.stm. Retrieved 2007-01-01.
- General references
- "Balaenoptera acutorostrata". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. http://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=180524. Retrieved 18 March 2006.
- "Balaenoptera bonaerensis". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. http://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=612592. Retrieved 18 March 2006.
- Branch, T. A., and D. S. Butterworth. 2001. "Southern Hemisphere minke whales: standardised abundance estimates from the 1978/79 to 1997/98 IDCR/SOWER surveys". Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 3:143-174.
- Minke Whales, Rus Hoelzel and Jonathon Stern, ISBN 1-900455-75-7
- National Audubon Society Guide to Marine Mammals of the World, Reeves, Stewart, Clapham and Powell, ISBN 0-375-41141-0
- Whale Watching in Iceland, Asbjorn Bjorgvinsson and Helmut Lugmayr, ISBN 9979-761-55-5
- Whales & Dolphins Guide to the Biology and Behaviour of Cetaceans, Maurizio Wurtz and Nadia Repetto. ISBN 1-84037-043-2
- Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals, editors Perrin, Wursig and Thewissen, ISBN 0-12-551340-2
- Odin Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- "Modes of Production and Minke Whaling: The Case of Iceland", Gísli Pálsson (2000).
OhUallachain, D. ad Debvaney, D. 2010. Minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata Lacepede) at Ballyhealy, Co. Wexford. Ir Nat. J. 31: 55.