Bowhead Whale

General information
Quick Facts
Order Cetacea
Suborder Mysticete (Baleen)
Family Balaenidae
Species Balaena mysticetus
Status Endangered
Weight 60-100 tons
Diet Planktonic crustaceans such as krill and copepods
Size Average 60 ft
Home Arctic and subarctic waters, near pack ice

Where Do Bowhead Whales Live?

How Does a Bowhead Stay Warm in Arctic Waters?

Bowhead whales are the heaviest for their body length because their blubber (fat) is up to 28 inches thick! These huge animals are the only whales to live exclusively in the artic, where they spend their time filter feeding along the pack ice. Bowheads have the longest baleen – up to 10 feet long! These whales can be distinguished from right whales by the absence of callosities and having a white chin with black spots. Like right whales, bowheads do not have a dorsal fin. 

Bowhead whales can live a very long time Recent research indicates that bowheads can live well in excess of 100 years. Researchers at the Smithsonian Institute estimated harpoons found in the flesh of bowhead whales at 130-200 years old! The only other animals this long-lived are the giant tortoise and the giant clam. The harpoons were probably made in the late 1700s by Inupiat hunters. Additional research continues to collect data on bowhead lifespan by studying the proteins in their eyes. 

Brignole, E. and McDowell, J. Amino Acid Racemization. Today’s Chemist At Work. 2001. v. 10 Carwardine, M. Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises, Dorling Kindersley, New York. 1995