Bowhead, Greenland right whale, Arctic whale, Steeple-top, Polar whale, Russia or Russian whale, Black Right whale,
The Bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) is a species of baleen whale and the only living representative of the genus Balaena. They are the only baleen whale endemic to the Arctic and subarctic waters and are named after their characteristic massive triangular skull, which they use to break through Arctic ice. Bowheads have the largest mouth of any animal representing almost one-third of the length of the body, the longest baleen plates, and may be the longest-lived mammals, with the ability to reach an age of more than 200 years.
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The Bowhead whale has a large, robust, dark-colored body and a white chin. It has a massive triangular skull, which it uses to break through the Arctic ice to breathe. It also possesses a strongly bowed lower jaw and a narrow upper jaw. Its baleen is the longest that of any whale, at 3 m (10 ft), and is used to strain tiny prey from the water. The bowhead whale has paired blowholes at the highest point of the head, which can spout a blow 6.1 m (20 ft 0 in) high. The bowhead's blubber is the thickest of any animal's, with a maximum of 43-50 cm (17-19+1⁄2 in). Unlike most cetaceans, the bowhead does not have a dorsal fin - an adaptation for spending much time under sea-surface ice. Like the sperm whale and other cetaceans, the Bowhead whale has a vestigial pelvis that is not connected to the spine.
The bowhead is the only whale of the baleens to spend its whole life in arctic and sub-arctic seas. The Alaskan population spends the winter months in the southwestern Bering Sea. The group migrates northward in the spring, following openings in the ice, into the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. The whale's range varies depending on climate changes and the forming/melting of ice.
Bowhead whales swim slowly and usually travel on their own or in small herds with up to six animals. They may stay beneath the surface for up to forty minutes for a dive, but they are not regarded as deep divers. They are highly vocal, using underwater sounds to communicate when traveling, feeding, and socializing. Bowheads can make long repetitive songs, which could be mating displays. This whale’s behavior includes breaching, spy-hopping, and tail slapping. A behavior unique to this species is that it will use its exceptionally large head to break through the ice, especially pieces that are thick.
Bowhead whales are polyandrous, with one female having a relationship with one or more males. Mating usually takes place from late winter to early spring. Spring migration occurs soon after this, and calves are born between April and June, with most of them in May. After a gestation lasting 13-14 months, one calf is born. It is fed with milk from its mother until it is weaned, this occurring 9-15 months after birth. Once the births have taken place, whales divide into groups to migrate. Mothers with their calves are in the group at the front. This could be to enable them to be the first to feed on food that is encountered. The birthing interval is 3-4 years. Reproductive maturity may not be attained until they are 20 years old.
Current threats include ongoing hunting by aboriginal people, collisions with ships, and getting tangled in fishing nets. Pollution, climate change, and being disturbed by tourists and vessels are also probably having detrimental effects on these whales.
According to International Whaling Commission's most recent estimate in 2011-2012, the total population size of bowhead whales is about 17,000 individuals in North Pacific and 1,300 in North Atlantic. The global population of bowhead whales appears to be increasing and it is classified as least concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.