Bowhead Whales: Balaena mysticetus
- Bowhead whales live in the Northern Hemisphere,
around pack ice, often in shallow waters. Stocks of
bowhead whales are known to occur: North of Europe,
between Canada and Greenland, in Hudson Bay area, the
Okhotsk Sea, and the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort seas.
Bowhead whales migrate seasonally within these waters,
between summer feeding areas and wintering areas.
<br><br>They are up to 65 feet (19.8 meters) long. Bowheads
have extremely large heads and relatively stocky
(short and fat) bodies, highly arched jaws (a narrow
upper jaw and a large, lower jaw), two blow holes, and
no dorsal ridge or fin. <br><br>It is thought that
baleen whales (including bowhead whales) probably have
excellent hearing, which is valuable in the dark ocean
environment where vision is less useful. Low-frequency sound
can travel great distances under water, which is
great for bowhead whales since scientists believe the
whales' ears are designed for low-frequency
hearing.<br><br>Bowhead whales are highly vocal and have a large
repertoire of calls and songs. The echoes of these calls may
be used to help the whales navigate through the ice
as they migrate.<br><br>As bowheads are baleen
whales, they filter their food through their long baleen
plates. Bowhead whales open their great mouths and graze
along the surface, in the water column, or on the sea
floor. Bowheads mostly eat zooplankton including
copepods and small shrimp-like animals called euphausiids
(most are only 1-3 mm long). Scientists estimate that a
bowhead whale needs to eat about 100 metric tons of
crustaceans per year.<br><br>Most female bowhead whales are
sexually mature by the time they reach a length of 45.9
feet (14 meters). Length of sexual maturity in males
is not well documented. Mating behavior has been
observed year-round, though most conceptions are believed
to occur during late winter or spring. Females are
pregnant for at least 12 months and pregnancies occur
approximately every three to seven years. Most calves are born
between April and early June during the spring migration.
Calves are born able to swim. A mother and calf form a
very close attachment. The calf spends most of its
time swimming close to its mother and is carried in
the mother's slip stream.<br><br>Bowhead whales'
limited population and harsh aquatic home make bowhead
whales the most difficult of all large whales to study.
Because of an absence of teeth (which can be used to
estimate age in other mammals), it is difficult to tell
how old bowhead whales are when they die. Based on
the recovery of stone harpoon tips, it is believed
that bowhead whales live well past 70 years old.
Recent studies, using tissues from bowhead whale eyes,
suggest that these whales may live over 100
years.<br><br>Bowhead whales were commercially hunted for oil, meat,
and apparel materials (corset stays, umbrella ribs,
buggy whips, and more) from the 17th through the early
20th century. Today some Native Alaskans are allowed
to hunt a limited number of bowhead whales for
subsistence and products to produce native handicrafts.
Bowheads are also preyed by killer whales, some die after
become trapped and frozen in heavy ice, while others die
as result of other natural causes.
- How close to shore?<br>Within a 100 yards in many
cases, if the water is deep enough.....<br><br>How
many?<br>The traditional belief is that there's around 1500
Humpback Whales that congregate each year near Hawaii
during their wintering from Alaska. We try to do a
census but you know that's not gonna be too acurate
because you can't count things hiding away in the ocean
depths too easily. Probably safe to say somewhere
between 1500-3000 Humpback whales visiting Hawaii now.