Underwater view of humpback whales swimming

Rorqual family

With nine species, rorquals are the largest family of baleen whales. They feed by gulping large quantities of water and straining crustaceans and fish through short, broad baleen plates. Rorquals range from the blue whale, the largest animal to have ever lived, to the relatively small nine tonne minke whale. All rorqual whales have deep longitudinal grooves in the skin running from the throat to the chest. Populations were reduced by whaling to the extent that most species are now fully protected. They are usually seen in pods of between two and five individuals. Rorqual whales are distributed worldwide and, with a couple of exceptions, live in the open ocean.

Scientific name: Balaenidae

Rank: Family

Explore this group


The following habitats are found across the Rorqual family distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.

Open ocean Open ocean
The open ocean is the sunlit top layer of the ocean beyond the continental shelves. The vast bulk of the sea, it covers over 360,000,000 square kilometres of the Earth's surface.


Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.

Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web

When they lived

Discover the other animals and plants that lived during the following geological time periods.