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Endangered Species: Bowhead Whale

written by: Niki Fears•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 4/30/2009

A brief introduction to the bowhead whale

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    While there are several species of endangered whales that have become rather well known by the masses, such as the humpback whale and the large blue whale. There are several other species of whales that call the waters of this planet home, such as the bowhead whale.

    Range and Appearance:

    bowhead The bowhead whale is native to the Arctic waters, spending its entire life span in this cold temperature (the bowhead is the only baleen whale to do so on a year round basis). The bowhead whale is dark in color and has no dorsal fin. Its large bowed lower jaw is a distinctive feature that has won the animal its name. Females among the population are often larger than male bowhead whales and can grow to be more than 60-70 feet in length.

    The bowhead whale is adequately equipped for life in the frigid Arctic waters and features a large head that is extremely hard which the whale uses to break through the surface ice in frozen waters so they can breathe.

    Diet & Behavior

    Bowhead whales are baleen whales, which are also known as filter feeders because they do not have teeth. Instead they have a row of strong string type baleens which can filter out shrimp, krill, and other small nutrients from the water that the whale takes into its mouth when feeding. This method is rather unique among the bowhead whales from the way in which other species of whales feed and resembles the technique that is utilized by a basking shark.

    Most whales have a lifespan that falls shortly below that of a human's at around 60-70 years. The bowhead whale; however, is believed to have a much longer lifespan that could be as much as 200 years.

    Like most whales, sound plays a vital role in their navigation and social structure. Their mating season which runs from March until August leads to a 13-14 month pregnancy. Generally females will mate once every few years.

    Current Population and Threats:

    Like most whales, the bowhead whale was nearly wiped out by the whaling industry that lasted for centuries and still occurs in certain parts of the world by such countries as Japan and Norweigh to spite public outcry.

    The bowhead whale is currently listed as a species of less concern; however, they are still under threat from hunters, population loss, and rising sea temperatures so it is important for us to plan ahead to prevent these whales from getting any closer to possible extinction. To read an article on the concept of preventing endangered status for species, click here.