Minke whales are a species of baleen whale, and are further divided into two species of minke: The common (or northern) minke whale and the Antarctic (or southern) minke whale. The latter spends most of its time in the frigid waters of the Southern Hemisphere, and can be found in the Antarctic pack ice from October to November.
The Antarctic minke is one of the smallest of the baleen whales, despite some adults weighing as much as 10 tons. Like other baleen whales, the minke’s diet consists of small fish and krill, with krill providing the bulk of its daily intake. To feed, minke whales swim through schools of fish or krill-rich waters. With their mouths open wide, they gulp in water and take in their prey at the same time. They then force the water out through their baleen filter (which is made of keratin—the same material that human hair and fingernails are made of), trapping the fish or krill inside.
Antarctic minke whales tend to be happy in their own company, often spending much of their time alone or in small groups of two or sometimes three. Occasionally, however, minkes will form much larger groups to socialize and feed; the largest recorded gathering included about 60 individuals. Antarctic minkes have a relatively peaceful existence and live on average for about 40 years. But they do have one natural predator: killer whales. Killer whales are known to hunt minkes in packs, attacking and killing juveniles and, at times, adults.
Like other whale species, Antarctic minkes vocalize over long distances. Minkes are particularly loud, with their most impressive screeches and grunts rivaling the noise of a rock concert. In the 1960s, submarines began reporting a quacking-like sound that the submariners dubbed the “bio-duck.” It was only in 2014 that minke whales were identified as the source of these mighty ocean quacks.
Other Antarctica Wildlife
Adélie Penguin / Chinstrap Penguin / Emperor Penguin / Gentoo Penguin / Macaroni Penguin / Crabeater Seal / Elephant Seal / Fur Seal / Leopard Seal / Ross Seal / Weddell Seal / Blue Whale / Fin Whale / Humpback Whale / Killer Whale / Right Whale / Sei Whale / Sperm Whale