The bowhead whale is second only in size to the mighty blue whale. Its enormous bow-shaped mouth, the largest mouth of any animal, contains a baleen measuring three metres. The 300 plates filter out the tiny crustaceans from the water which make up its diet. Discoveries of ancient ivory and stone harpoon heads in the flesh of individuals suggest bowhead whales may live for more than 100 years, possibly up to 200 years. This would make them the longest lived mammal known. The bowhead whale inhabits cold Arctic waters and so needs the best insulation. It's blubber is the thickest found on any animal at half a metre. Female bowheads are perhaps the most flirtatious ocean mammal, constantly teasing the males into a frenzy.
Scientific name: Balaena mysticetus
The following habitats are found across the Bowhead whale distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.
Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.
Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web
The bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) is a baleen whale of the right whale family Balaenidae, in suborder Mysticeti and genus Balaena. A stocky dark-colored whale without a dorsal fin, it can grow to 20 m (66 ft) in length. This thick-bodied species can weigh 75 tonnes (74 long tons; 83 short tons) to 100 tonnes (98 long tons; 110 short tons), second only to the blue whale, although the bowhead's maximum length is less than several other whales. It lives entirely in fertile Arctic and sub-Arctic waters, unlike other whales that migrate to feed or reproduce to low latitude waters. It was also known as Greenland right whale or Arctic whale. American whalemen called it the steeple-top, polar whale, or Russia or Russian whale. The bowhead has the largest mouth of any animal.
The bowhead was an early whaling target. Its population was severely reduced before a 1966 moratorium. The population is estimated to be over 24,900 worldwide, down from an estimated 50,000 before whaling.
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