By: Poul Vendel
The Bryde's whale is a relatively slender baleen whale with a pleated throat
(a "rorqual"). The Bryde's whale has a prominent dorsal fin which is
much the same as a smaller rorqual, the minke whale. The Bryde's and the minke
are easily mistaken at sea, but on close inspection the Bryde's, unlike the
minke, has three ridges running along the top jaw from near the blow hole to the
snout. The upper body of the Bryde's whale is dark, and often has a blotchy look
about it, and the belly is lighter.
A drawing of a Bryde's whale
The Bryde's whale reaches lengths of between 13 and 15 metres and a weight of
14000kg. A Bryde's whale calf when born is about 4 metres in length
The location in Africa:
Bryde's whales are interesting as they are the whale that occurs year round
along the entire coast of South Africa. They are generally found over the
continental shelf, but they sometimes seen making use of extreme coastal waters
and bays. The best time to see them is during the annual sardine run in Autumn
and early Winter when they are lured from deeper water. The fish are easily
spotted by the diving gannets and schools of dolphins associated with them.
Minke whales may also accompany the Bryde's in these situations. The best places
to view the Bryde's are capes and promontories. They can be seen individually or
in groups of up to 10 animals. Although little is known about the Brydes, there
appear to be two populations that occur off the southern African coast: an
inshore population that appears to be resident and does not migrate and an
offshore stock which may undertake a seasonal migration and can be seen in
spring and summer. The gestation period in Bryde's whales is about one year,
afterwhich females give birth to a calf. The calf is suckled for about a year
and the female will mate again after it has been weaned. It is presumed that
SA's resident stock both mates and gives birth here.
The baleen of the Bryde's whale can be dark at the corners of the mouth and
white at the front or slate grey all around. It has between 255 and 365 pairs of
baleen plates which may be up to 46 centimetres long. They feed on small
midwater shoaling fish such as anchovy, maasbanker and pilchard as well as squid
and krill. Small groups of Bryde's whales may form during feeding.
Human impacts in African waters are unknown.