Whales are the largest mammals in the world. Most of the whales are found in Antarctica due the greatest availability for their food sources such as Antarctic krill. Every year, the water body encircling the southern Antarctic Ocean is greatest in the whale food concentration. Antarctic krill is the small, semi-transparent shrimp like creature that feeds on the algae under the ice packs of Antarctica. These are the primary source of food for whales, thus whales are found in large numbers in Antarctica. Antarctic whale species found in the Antarctic Ocean include the minke whale, humpback whale, blue whale, sei whale, fin whale and right whale. All these whale species belong to the rorquals family. Characteristic of the rorquals are ventral pleats running from the lower jaw to the belly and the dorsal fins on their back.
Among these Antarctic whales, the Blue whale is the largest whale species weighing up to 170 tonnes and up to an estimated 30 m long. Blue Whale is also known as Balaenoptera musculus. It is not only the largest whale but the largest animal on earth ever lived. These whales move around in all the seas around the globe, but during southern summer they travel and hide under the ice packs and migrate.
Humpback Whale is also known as Megaptera novaeangliae, they travel great distances through the oceans. Their long flippers extending up to 1/3rd of total body length help to travel long distances. They are streamlined and less slender compared to the blue whale. They are up to 13m long and weigh 31 tonnes on average. They do migrate from north to south like other baleen whales. These species are known for their musical songs under the oceans. Life expectancy is about 50 years. These whales are black in colour on the upper side and mottled white and black on the lower side extending up to flukes.
Minke Whale is also known as Balaenoptera acutorostrata, are the faster swimmers compared to other whale species. Their speed varies from 16 to 21 mph. On average they are 8 m long and weighs 6 to 8 tonnes. Their life span is about 50 years. Due to their greater speed, they are very rarely seen and quickly disappear from our sight. They mainly feed on the Antarctic krill under the ice packs of Antarctica. They are curious and known to approach vessels and ships. As they are the fastest swimmers, they have the capability to keep up with the moving vessels. These whales are spread around sub-tropical and polar water. As the Humpback whale, the Minke Whale is also streamlined and slender. Due to the slender and long pointed flippers, they could swim at a greater speed. Colour of the body varies from shaded black to gray on the top and white below.
You may also want to check out our Antarctica facts page where you can see all of our whale facts.
Find out about the protection of whales and dolphins at WDC : Whale Protection