Bowhead Whale – Balaena mysticetus
Habitat: Favours ice edge around Arctic Ocean, migrating northwards in summer into high Arctic as ice retreats.
Description: Rotund body, large (up to 40% of body length) but relatively narrow head, strongly arched lower jaw. Black in colour, no dorsal fin. Prominent muscular bulge in blowhole area, obvious depression behind. Very thick skin and blubber. Longest baleen plates of any whale, typically dark grey, brown, or black with lighter fringes, which may show as a white patch in front of lower jaw when seen from the front. Flippers are large, blunt, fan-shaped. Flukes are wide, tapered at tip, with no central notch, often light grey or white band across tailstock.
Size: 18 – 20 m.
Distribution: Circumpolar, generally between 55° and 85° N. Recorded twice off coast of Cornwall and once in Northern Ireland 2015 – 2016; may have been the same individual.
Conservation Status & Population: Listed by IUCN as least concern.
Only superficially resembles related North Atlantic right whale.