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Facts About Fin Whales

November 17, 2002|Peggy Andersen | Associated Press Writer

SEATTLE — Fin whales are Earth's second-largest creature after blue whales, reaching up to 85 feet long.

Little is known about them because they prefer deep water, where they "gulp" large quantities of water and prey -- including small schooling fish, krill and squid -- straining water through plates of baleen in their mouths as they feed.

They belong to a speedy class of torpedo-shaped whales known as "rorquals." Sometimes called "the greyhounds of the sea," they can manage bursts of speed up to 25 knots -- too fast for whaling vessels propelled by sail.

In time, humans learned to outrun them. Fins were the second species targeted by efficiently deadly commercial whaling ships, after blues, and are still recovering from predation that took an estimated 30,000 of their species annually from 1935 to 1965.

The global population of fin whales -- found in all the world's oceans -- is unknown, with estimates ranging from 50,000 to 100,000.

They probably have migratory patterns linked to feeding and breeding. Calves are born at two-year intervals, weaned at six months and spend months with their mothers.

Mostly gray or brown with white undersides, fin whales have V-shaped patterns of color around their heads called "chevrons."

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