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Finback Whale
(balaenoptera physalus)

Finbacks are the second largest animal to ever live on earth. The average length maybe 50 to 60 feet with the record in the North Atlantic being 79 feet and the Antarctic record being 88 feet. Finbacks have been a harder whale to study as they can be very fast swimmers and travel a great distance under water. For example, this past summer we were with two finbacks that made a twelve minute dive and came up over a mile away. Also they do not show the under side of their tail when they dive down as humpback whales do. Yet, Allied Whale proved that you can tell them apart largely through fin shape. Their 2 foot high fins vary in shape and size. Allied Whale has a photo catalog that divides the whales up according to six different fin shapes. All the triangular shaped fins are together, all the sickle shaped fins are together, all the whales with a hump before the fin are together, and so on. Each whale can be separated form the others using scars on the fin or anywhere on the body.

A third feature that may be used to tell them apart is a color pattern on the side of the body. Finbacks are the only animal in the world that are asymmetrically colored. Meaning, one side of their head has color while the other doesn't. The left side is mostly dark while the right lower jaw is white and runs up onto the side of the head in a swirlish pattern that becomes a white, greenish, gray wash. The pattern is bright in some whales and faded in others. It is not known why finbacks have this coloring but it is thought that it may help them in catching food. It maybe that they flash the color at a school of fish to drive them into a tighter ball or maybe it hides them so they can move in and get a larger mouth full of food.

Finbacks and their larger relative the blue whale have the deepest voice of any animal on earth. Scientists theorize that they may be able to hear each other over hundreds if not thousands of miles given the right conditions. While finback's have a big voice they also have a big breath which may equal 2 to 3,000 human breathes. You may wonder how much food finbacks can eat? It is believed that any of the large whales may eat 1% - 2% of their body weight in a day. Therefore a large finback weighing between 100 to 150,000 lbs. may be able to eat 1,000 to 4,000 lbs. food in a day. It is still not known were the finbacks we see during the summer spend their winter or were they give birth to their young. It must be out in the deeper Atlantic and recent acoustic research suggests north of Bermuda. Fin whales give birth in February to an 18 - 20 foot long calf after a year long pregnancy. The young then nurse for about seven months. Scientists believe fin whales may be able to mate by five or six years and live 80 to 90 years.



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