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Published on May 6th, 2013 | by Yellow Magpie


Antarctic Minke Whale: The Cold-Loving Whales

Antarctic Minke Whale Photo By Brocken Inaglory Creative Commons ShareAlike License

Antarctic Minke Whale were once thought to be Common Minke Whales that preferred Southern Hemisphere waters. Thanks to DNA testing we now know that they are a separate species that like to visit the coldest region of Earth.

Antarctic Minke Whale Size

Though slightly larger than their closest relative, the Common Minke whale, the Antarctic Minke whale is one of the smallest rorquals.

Antarctic Minke whales have a two-colour palette. Most of their body is dark grey while their abdomens are pale white. The dark grey colour may be due to sunlight giving them a tanned appearance.

One way of differentiating the Antarctic from the Common Minke is the absence of a white band running along the middle of the Common species’s pectoral fins.

Antarctic Minke whales spend their summers in the chilly Antarctic waters. In the winter time they move farther north to warmer waters. Nonetheless, some Antarctic Minke whales even stay in Antarctica during the bitterly cold winters.

Diet And Behaviour

Antarctic Minke whales feed on krill. Not generally keen on large groups they usually travel either alone or in pairs. Whilst feeding however, they can congregate in their hundreds.

As a baleen whale, Antarctic Minke whales do not have teeth and use their baleen hairs to trap their prey while straining out the water. Because they are also rorquals they can eat huge mouthfuls thanks to skin folds running along the lower jaw allowing their mouths to expand.

The Antarctic Minke whales usually dive for short periods of time though they have been observed diving for up to 20 minutes.They can briefly reach speeds of up to 20 kilometres (12 miles) per hour.

Like their northern relations, Antarctic Minke whales can be very curious and often approach boats to observe people.

Antarctic Minke Whales And Whaling

In the past 60 years over 65,000 Antarctic Minke whales have been killed by commercial whaling.

Since 1987 these whales have been hunted in smaller numbers. The current whaling quota of Antarctic Minke whales is set at 850.

It is estimated that the Antarctic Minke whale has a healthy population in excess of half a million individuals.


Commercial whaling especially from Japanese whalers is a serious threat to these whales.

Climate change, man-made noise and chemical pollution are also concerns. The World Wildlife Fund believes that rising temperatures and a corresponding reduction in sea ice could mean that the Antarctic Minke Whale population may decline by between 5 and 30 per cent in the next 40 years.

Other non-human threats are pods of Orcas.

Vital Statistics

  • Antarctic Minke Whales can be over ten metres (35 feet) in length.
  • They can weigh as much as nine tonnes.
  • Antarctic Minke Whales are found in the oceans of the Southern Hemisphere.
  • They can live to be 50 years old.

Recommended Reading

Visit for more information on the Antarctic Minke Whale.

Check out Yellow Magpie’s The Whales: Kings Of The Cetaceans, Fin Whale: The Giant Speedster Of The Oceans and Our Love Affair With Our Favourite Cetacean for further insight into Whales and their cetacean cousins.

Among Giants: A Life With Whales is the fascinating story of underwater photographer, Charles ‘Flip’ Nicklin. Full of splendid pictures and insightful commentary about the whales this book is stunning.

You can obtain Among Giants: A Life with Whales here from Amazon.
For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom, you can access: Among Giants: A Life with Whales from here.
For Canada: Among Giants: A Life with Whales.
For Germany: Among Giants: A Life with Whales.
For France: Among Giants: A Life with Whales.

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