Baleen whales are believed to be among the giant animals on EarthEarth with the bowhead whale isn’t an exception. The bowhead whales average 50 feet long and weigh between 60 and 80 tons. The rows of baleen are vertical or comb-like teeth that aid in straining the bowhead’s massive amounts of water to capture food. They are the most massive of any whale, measuring nearly 175 inches in length. Furthermore, a bowhead whale’s skull could take up almost 1/3 of its body, allowing it to smash practically eight inches of thickness through sea ice. But that does not mean that the whales can swim through the water unharmed. Bowhead whales have numerous scars on their bodies due to smashing ice, and these marks allow scientists to identify specific whales.
Bowhead whales are among the few cetaceans living their entire existence in the Arctic. Instead of migrating to warmer waters as the season changes, the bowhead whales travel throughout the waters of the Northern Hemisphere, including the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas. The breeding season begins in April through June in the spring migration. The majority of females have a baby calf every 3 to six years. A calf can swim by itself right following birth, but the mother and her calf remain close to one another for a few months, never leaving each opposite side.
Diet and Nutrition
Bowheads are primarily zooplankton eaters, including copepods and tiny shrimp-like creatures that measure 1-3 millimeters long, also known as euphausiids.
What does a bowhead look like?
Bowheads are named in honor of their distinctive, arched mouth and upper jaw designed to resemble an archer’s bow. Their vast heads are equipped with two blowholes and an unprecedented V-shaped blow. They are approximately one-third of their length. They can be as high as twenty meters (65ft) tall. Large, rotund whale bowheads sport broad, smooth black backs and paddle-shaped flippers. With a distinct cosmetic chin patch of white, bowheads have bellies dotted with white spots and gray bands just behind their tails.
Scientists frequently use the dorsal fins on whales to aid in identifying and keeping track of people. But bowhead whales do not have a slender dorsal fin, ridge, or hump. This is because they spend much time swimming beneath sea ice, so a dorsal spine or hump would be a tense nuisance. Therefore, scientists opt to use the white marks on their bodies to mark distinct characteristics.
Habits and Lifestyle
Bowhead whales are slow swimmers and generally move on their own or in small herds of at least six or more animals. They can stay under the surface for as long as forty minutes during diving, but they are not considered deep divers. They are incredibly vocal, making underwater sounds to communicate while traveling, eating, or socializing. Bowheads are known to sing long, monotonous songs and could show mating behavior. This whale’s behavior involves breaching, spy-hopping, and tail lapping. One characteristic of this species is that it uses its massive head to cut through ice, particularly thick pieces.
Thin layers of fat keep them cozy in Arctic waters.
A few of the fascinating Bowhead whale’s facts are that they’ve got the most fat in any sea mammal and have coats up to 50cm (19 inches) thick! Blubber helps maintain body temperature. And animals, including bowhead whales, stay warm throughout the Arctic seasons.
How long will Bowhead Whales remain alive?
At first, Bowheads were believed to live around 65 years. In the last 30 years, whalers began to find older spear and harpoon heads dating from the 1800s buried in Whales’ hides. Bowheads will likely live longer than 65 years or as long as 200 years.
Fun Facts About Bowhead Whales
Bowhead whales reach 60 feet (18.3 m) and weigh 200,000 pounds (91 tons).
The bowhead whales are the largest in blue blubber of all whale species, with between 17 and 19 inches (43 to 48 centimeters) thick.
Bowhead whales require approximately 220,000 lbs (100 tonnes) of food annually.1
Bowhead whales use their many heads to cut through sea ice that could be as thick as two feet (0.6 meters).
They can reach speeds of as fast as 13 miles in an hour (21 km/hr). However, they generally are slow swimmers, swimming about 2-4 miles an hour (3 to 6 km/hr).2