Bowhead Whale

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(CC) Photo: Ansgar Walk
Bowhead Whale hunt 2002.
(PD) Image: Richard Lydekker
19th Century drawing of the Bowhead Whale.
(PD) Photo: NOAA
Map of the range of the bowhead whale centred over the north pole.

Bowhead Whales, also known as the Greenland Right Whale, are baleen whales which live in the Arctic Ocean.[1][2] Bowhead Whales are considered a distinct genus from the three species of Right Whales.[3] The Bowhead Whales carry more blubber, which serves as insulation, than Right Whales, thus they cannot venture into the warmer water where Right Whales live. Like other whales that live under the ice the Bowhead Whales lack a dorsal fin.

The Bowhead Whale species is the second largest species of cetacean, after the Fin Whale. They can grow to 55 tonnes and they are considered to have the largest mouth out of all mammals.

In recent years bowheads have been found with old wounds that contain 19th Century spear tips.[4] This discovery caused scientists to reconsider the Bowhead's life-span.[5][6] The maximum life-span of this species might be as long as 200 years.


  1. Linnaeus, C (1758). Systema naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata.. Holmiae. (Laurentii Salvii)., 824. Retrieved on 2008-08-26. 
  2. Balaena mysticetus, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Red List of Threatened Species, 1996. Retrieved on 2008-08-26.
  3. Kenney, Robert D. (2002). “North Atlantic, North Pacific and Southern Right Whales”, William F. Perrin, Bernd Wursig and J. G. M. Thewissen: The Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals. Academic Press, 806–813. ISBN 0-12-551340-2. 
  4. John Roach. Rare Whales Can Live to Nearly 200, Eye Tissue Reveals, National Geographic News, July 13, 2006. Retrieved on 2008-08-26.
  5. Ned Rozell. Bowhead Whales May Be the World's Oldest Mammals, Alaska Science Forum, 2001-02-15. Retrieved on 2008-08-26.
  6. Erin Conroy. Netted whale hit by lance a century ago: Wound allows researchers to age 50-ton creature at about 115 years old, MSNBC, Tuesday June 12, 2007. Retrieved on 2008-08-26.