By: Jon Stern
Edited by: Poul Vendel
The word minke comes from a Norwegian whaler who incorrectly identified these small
baleen whales for their larger cousins, the blue whale. The species name, acutorostrata,
refers to the sharp angle of the upper jaw when seen from above.
Minke whales have the basic body form of a balaenopterid whale. They are
fusiform, or torpedo shaped, and have a dorsal fin, about .34 m in height,
located about 2/3 down the back. The coloration is dark above and lighter
on the ventral surface. Swaths of white extend up the flank. Minke whales are
generally characterized by a white patch on the flipper. Most minke whales off
South Africa, as well as in the southern hemisphere in general, lack this patch.
Dwarf minke whales have white color on the flipper that extends onto the
shoulder. As the name implies, fully grown, the dwarf form is smaller than the
southern form. Minke whales in the northern hemisphere have this characteristic
flipper band, though the white on the flipper is restricted to the middle of the
flipper. There are likely a number of ecological differences that distinguishes
the southern forms from each other.
A picture of a Minke Whale
Adults are 9 m plus, with some females being bigger. Their weight is
around 14 tons. At birth, minke whales are about 2.4-2.8 m long.
The location in Africa:
Both the southern and dwarf forms of minke whales are seen off the South
Based upon whaling and sighting records, minke whales are seen off the Durban
coast, on the
east coast of South Africa on a seasonal basis, likely representing migration
between breeding and feeding areas. Whalers off the southwest coast of South
Africa near Capetown reported sighting and capturing only a few minke whales,
suggesting that they are not common in this area.
In the Antarctic, minke whales devour primarily krill, often congregating at the
ice edge in large numbers. Dwarf minke whales probably do not penetrate far into
the Antarctic waters. The southern minke whale is the most numerous baleen
whale, with estimates around 800,000 individuals. The only predator of minke
whales is the killer whale. Bites and wounds from unsuccessful attacks have been
found on whales killed in whaling operations.
Direct impacts are in the form of scientific whaling in the Antarctic by the
Japanese. Other impacts may be in the form of competition with the Antarctic