Bowhead Description

The Arctic Baleen whale, Bowhead, was so named because of its distinctive bow-shaped skull (Figure 1), which is 40% of the total body length.  The Bowhead reaches sexual maturity at a 13.5m length and 20years or older (females), and a length of 12.5-13m and 14-15.9 years (males) (Lubetkin et al., 2008).  Resent research has indicated that Bowheads routinely live to over 100 years (oldest sexually active male 159yrs), possibly exceeding 200 years of age (George et al., 1999). The Bowhead body characteristics (Figure 1) include the triangular fluke, paddle like flippers, no dorsal fin and two separated v-shaped blow holes, both distinctive characteristics of the family Balaenidae (right whales) (Berta et al., 2005). However unlike other members of the family Bowheads have no calcium deposits on their skin. Their skin is thick, black/brown in colour and has an insulation layer of blubber approximately 50cm thick.  They have characteristic white patches on the lower jaw and light grey bands along the fluke (Blix, 2005).

Bowhead Whale Diagram  By zoom

Figure 1: The body characteristics of the Bowhead Whale. (Source: zoom


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