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Fin whale
A fin whale surfaces in the Kenai fjords, Alaska
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Class: Mammalia
Order: Cetacea
Suborder: Mysticeti
Genus: Balaenoptera
Binomial name
Balaenoptera physalus
(Linnaeus, 1758)
Fin Whale range

The fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) is a huge baleen whale. It is the second largest animal on Earth (the blue whale is the biggest). This whale is sometimes called the "greyhound of the sea" because of its fast swimming speed; it can swim up to 23 mph (37 km/hr) in short bursts. The fin whale is also called the finback, finner, razorback, common rorqual, and herring whale.

The fin whale's body is long and slender, coloured brownish-grey with a paler underside. The fin whale is a large baleen whale that belongs to the Cetacean order, which includes all species of whale, dolphin and porpoise. At least two recognized subspecies exist, in the North Atlantic and the Southern Hemisphere. It is found in all the major oceans, from polar to tropical waters. It is absent only from waters close to the ice pack at the poles and relatively small areas of water away from the open ocean. The highest population density occurs in temperate and cool waters. Its food consists of small schooling fish, squid, and crustaceans including copepods and krill.

Like all other large whales, the fin whale was heavily hunted during the 20th century and is an endangered species. Over 725,000 fin whales were reportedly taken from the Southern Hemisphere between 1905 and 1976; as of 1997 only 38,000 survived. Recovery of the overall population size of southern species is predicted to be at less than 50% of its pre-whaling state by 2100 due to heavier impacts of whaling and slower recovery rates.

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) issued a moratorium on commercial hunting of this whale, although Iceland and Costa Rica have resumed hunting. The species is also hunted by Greenlanders under the IWC's Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling provisions. Global population estimates range from less than 100,000 to roughly 119,000.


Fin whales are filter feeders that eat plankton (tiny crustaceans like krill and copepods) and small fish from the water. They have very fine grey-black baleen that traps very small particles of food. Each side of the upper jaw has 270-470 baleen plates.

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