Common Name: Minke Whale*
General Description: As in all the rorquals except the Humpback Whale Megaptera novaeangliae, the body of the Minke Whale is slender and streamlined. The short head appears sharply triangular when viewed from above. There is a single prominent head ridge.
The flippers are slim and pointed, whilst the tail flukes are broad, with a notched rear margin. There are 50 to 70 throat grooves, which end short of the navel, often just behind the flippers. The dorsal fin is tall and falcate, located two-thirds of the way back from the tip of the snout. Minke Whales are black to dark grey on the back, white on the belly and on the underside of the flippers. Northern hemisphere animals may have a distinctive diagonal band of white on each flipper, the extent varying between individuals. A paler chevron may be seen behind the head, and some shading occurs on the sides.
Size: Adults,The maximum length of males is about 8.0 m and that of females, 10.7 m; the weight is about 10 tons. Animals from the northern hemisphere are smaller. Calves at birth, 3m long.
Appearance At Sea: At sea, Minkes will approach vessels, particularly stationary boats, and so are more likely to be seen at close quarters than the large rorquals
Out of the breeding season, the Minke Whale tends to occur alone or in pairs, but it may congregate in rich feeding areas.
The blow of a Minke Whale is low (2 m), and usually inconspicuous. The fin often appears at the same time as the blow.
Minkes travel far in search of food. Away from polar waters, this species feeds on fish and squid more than any other baleen whale. A Minke caught in 1972 had the broken beak tip of a Blue Marlin embedded in its upper jaw. The whale may have been competing with the fish for the same prey.
Minke Whales, the smallest of the rorquals, would bear the brunt of commercial whaling, if the IWC ban on it were to be lifted. Japanese vessels scouting the southern Indian Ocean during 1966-1985 found this species, the smallest of the large whales, to be the most abundant in the area.
Found In: The Minke Whale is said to be generally found in the open ocean, but it approaches close to shore, often entering shallow waters, including rivers, estuaries, inlets and bays. It feeds mainly on fish and squid.
Records from India: There are only two records of the Minke Whale from India. Of these, the first is only a conjecture. On 23 May 1965, a whale got entangled in nylon fishing nets off Punnakayal, south of Tuticorin, and escaped after badly damaging the nets. In the early hours of the morning next day, six fishermen were resting after hauling in nets in the same area. By their account, a huge monster reared out of the water suddenly and fell across the boat, smashing it. Two of the men were killed instantaneously. The survivors had noted in the twilight that the animal had been blackish above and pale whitish below. Examination of skin bits found sticking on the jagged edges of timber collected by the fishermen revealed that it had been a whale. On the basis of the size of the animal, it is presumed to have been a Minke Whale.
The second Indian record is of a 6.3 m male Minke Whale caught alive by fishermen off Kakinada in 1985.
There are, however several recorded instances of Minke Whales stranding on the coast of Sri Lanka between 1937 and 1963, and one stranding in 1969 in Saudi Arabia.
World Distribution: These whales are found in all seas, including icy polar waters. Some Minkes are known to remain throughout the winter under the pack ice in the Antarctic.
Could Be Confused With: At close range, there are no problems regarding identification but at distance, there is a possibility of confusion with the Sei Whale Balaenoptera borealis or even with one of the beaked or bottlenosed whales, such as Hyperoodon spp. They can be distinguished as follows:
Species : Minke Whale
Head : Flat head
Blow : Indistinct blow
Fin : Visible at the same time as blow
Colour of Back : Dark back
Tail : Tailstock arched prominently before diving; Never shows flukes
Species : Sei Whale
Head : Flat head
Blow : Higher blow
Fin : Visible with blow
Colour of Back : Dark back
Tail : Submerge quietly without showing flukes
Species : Hyperoodon spp.
Head : Domed head
Blow : Low bushy blow
Fin : Visible long after blow
Colour of Back : Grey back
Tail : Shows tail (without notch) while diving
Diagnostic Features: At sea, Narrow, acutely pointed almost triangular rostrum; bright white flipper patch; tall falcate dorsal fin.
Stranded Specimens: The baleen plates number 230 to 260, and are up to 20 cm long and 12 cm broad at the base. In the northern hemisphere, the plates are creamy white, with fine, white bristles. In southern hemisphere animals, the baleen is often grey, with the front plates white.
* According to the current understanding of distribution, these species are not present in the Northern Indian ocean.