Fin Whale

Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus)Spanish name: Rorcual Comun, Rorcual Careto

This whale stays in deeper oceanic areas, avoiding shallow or coastal waters.

Physical Description
The long dark back of this whale is smudged with a lighter grayish area behind the head; the contrasting belly is white with many ventral grooves between the lower jaw and navel. The relatively small dorsal fin (60 cm high) is far back from the head, and the flippers are narrow and white underneath. The distinct head is flat, V-shaped when looked at from above, and the mouth full of plates for straining krill and other small food.

Interesting Biology
Second in size only to the blue whale, this enormous oceanic mammal lives travels to the poles in the spring and passes through the warm equatorial waters in the winter. It travels alone, in pairs, or in pods of up to 7 individuals; some temporary groups reach more than 50 individuals in feeding or resting areas.

The fin whale can dive up to 230 m, and is one of the fastest large whales, swimming up to 32 km/h. While hunting, it sends out low and high frequency pulses to find food and to communicate with other fin whales. When it resurfaces from a deep dive, a tall spout spurts from the blowhole 4-6 m high and visible from far away. This whale often leaps out of the water-an action called breaching-like the humpback whale, splashing water high into the air as it lands on its back.

The Fin Whale still faces hunting threats to a small degree off the coasts of Spain, Korea, and China.

This large whale is sustained by a variety of krill, crustaceans, invertebrates, jellyfish, squid, herring, and lamp fish.

From 24 m to 27 m long and weighing 35-70 tons, size and weight varies with region, tending to be larger in the southern hemisphere.

Brief Taxonomy
Order: Cetacea
Family: Balaenopteridae

Saenz, Joel C., Grace Wong, and Eduardo Carrillo. Ballenas y delfines de America Central. Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad. Costa Rica, 2004.

Amy Strieter, Wildlife Writer