Bowhead whale just under the Arctic ice

Bowhead whale

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

Rank: Species

Common names:

  • Arctic whale,
  • Greenland right whale

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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.

Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web


BBC News about Bowhead whale