The Eastern Arctic Seas Encyclopedia

2016 Edition
| Editors: Igor S. Zonn, Andrey G. Kostianoy, Aleksandr V. Semenov

Bowhead Whale (Balaena mysticetus)

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-24237-8_93
Bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) – a large mammal in the suborder Mystacoceti. The size of adult B.W. usually reaches 15–16 m, sometimes 20 m. The head accounts for about a quarter of the whole body length. There is no dorsal fin. The throat and abdomen are smooth. The head, back, and sides are dark gray or black, and the lower parts of the body are whitish or white. In the mouth, there are 300–400 whalebones (up to 4.5 m long). It was earlier very widely spread in the Arctic Ocean as well as in the Chukchi, the Bering, and the Okhotsk seas. By now it has only survived in the waters washing the Chukchi Peninsula and the Alaska North Slope. The coast of the latter is the place of migration for about 10 thousand whales. B.W is a typically Arctic animal, lives by the ice edge and among the open drift ice, feeds on small invertebrates from the surface sea layers (shellfish, sea butterflies, and others), and mates at the end of summer. In February or March, the females give birth to one whale calf 3–5 m long. Bowhead whale hunting is prohibited everywhere, but the aboriginal population of Chukotka and Alaska is officially allowed to hunt several dozens of B.W. for their own purposes.

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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016