15+ Interesting Facts About Bowhead Whales

  1. The Bowhead whale is one of the baleen whales. They are different from toothed whales (dolphins, porpoises, sperm whales, beaked whales, etc.) due to the presence of baleen instead of teeth in their mouth.
  2. It is one of the few species of whales that are endemic to the waters of the Arctic and subarctic region. They spend their entire life in this freezing water.
  3. The Bowhead whale is the only member of the baleen whale that is endemic to the waters of this polar region.
  4. They are named so due to the triangular shape of their massive head. This shape and size of the head are helpful for bowhead whales to break through the ice of the Arctic.
  5. Due to its presence in this polar area, the bowhead whale is also known as Arctic Whale, Great Polar Whale, and Greenland right whale.
  6. Bowhead whales can dive up to 500 ft (150 m). They can remain underwater in a single dive for less than 20 minutes.
  7. Their normal speed is in the range of 2 to 5 km/h. At the time of danger, they can increase this speed by up to 10 km/h (6.2 m/h).
  8. A vital feature of the Bowhead whale is its extraordinarily large mouth. Bowhead whales have the largest mouth in the world. It is 16 ft (5 m) long, 12 ft (4 m) high, and 8 ft (2.5 m) wide. The weight of its tongue is around 900 kg. It also has the longest baleen of any whale. This large mouth allows this mammal to consume around 2 tons (1,814 kg) of food daily. (Source
  9. Bowhead whales also have one of the longest lifespans among animals and the longest among mammals. It can live for more than 200 years. Just a few animals (Greenland shark, ocean quahog, jellyfish, corals, etc.) can outlive bowhead whales. (Source)
  10. Another distinguishing feature of the bowhead whale is its thick blubber (layer of fat under the skin). It is around 50 cm (20 in), the thickest of any animal.
  11. In normal conditions, bowhead whales use low-frequency sounds (of less than 1,000 Hz) to communicate.
  12. During mating season, bowhead whales produce a variety of songs. It is the reason that they are known as “Jazz Musicians of the Arctic”. It is one of the just two species of whales that can produce a song. The other is humpback whales, known to sing “Classical Music”. (Source)
    Two bowhead whales in water
    Bowhead whales are known as Jazz musicians of Arctic
  13. Bowhead calves can swim on their own within 30 minutes after their birth.
  14. The Bowhead whale is the 5th largest animal on earth. The average length of this aquatic mammal is 15 m (49 ft), while it can attain a weight of more than 100 tons.
  15. Like other Arctic whales and unlike many other whales, humpback whales don’t have dorsal fins. It prevents heat loss and provides other benefits suitable to the environment in which they live.
  16. Due to unrestricted whaling, the number of bowhead whales reduced considerably before 1966. Commercial bowhead whaling started in the 16th Century. There were more than 50,000 bowhead whales before this period, and thousands vanished during the commercial whaling period. Slow swimming and floating after death makes bowhead whale ideal for commercial whaling.
  17. After the eradication of commercial whaling in 1966, the danger of extinction has reduced. Now, bowhead whales are present at the IUCN status of “least concern” on a global level. But even then, the population in a few areas is considered “Endangered”. 
  18. The main predators of bowhead whales are humans and killer whales.


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