FACTFILE: Bryde's Whale

Author // James Robbins Categories // Whale & Dolphin General News

FACTFILE: Bryde's Whale

Closely related to the fin, sei and minke whale, this elusive species is subject to a great deal of debate within the scientific community.

Bryde’s whales are one of the baleen whale family and a relatively rare sighting for ORCA surveyors, with only 4 recorded since 2006 (all since 2016). The species, which can reach 16.5m in length, are filter feeders that spend their entire lives in warmer waters close to the equator.

However, it is classification (a key for identifying different species) of these animals that is arguably most interesting. Despite having been first described over 100 years ago, there is still a great deal of debate within the scientific community about the specific classification of this species, with some arguing that there are potentially two or even three separate species.

The so-called “ordinary” Bryde’s whale, which has a worldwide distribution including Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Ocean populations is argued to be taxonomically distinct from potentially two species. These include the “Eden’s whale”, which is thought to be found exclusively in Indo-Pacific waters, and a coastal species that is found near southern Africa and differs in skull construction.

Complicating issues is the fact that the recently described Omura’s whale was formerly considered to be a pygmy form of Bryde’s whale, suggesting that the deabte on this issue will continue.

Regardless of taxonomy, this species is an elegant example of baleen whales. It is distinguishable from similar looking species such as fin and sei whales by the three parallel ridges on top of it’s head, near to the blow hole.

The species is hunted by Japanese whalers as part of their “scientific research”, and ORCA have recently observed them for the first time during cruises to the Canary Islands. To find out more, visit the dedicated species page on our website.