Bryde’s Whale

Bryde’s Whales are the least known and in many ways the most unusual of the rorquals(Baleen Whales). They are small by rorqual standards””no more than about 25 tons. They prefer tropical warm waters to the polar seas that other whales in their family prefer. They are largely coastal whales and their diet is composed almost entirely of fish.

There appear to be two species, and some confusion between the two exists. Bryde’s Whales are very similar in appearance to Sei Whales and almost as large, and were not described until 1878 from a stranded whale on the coast of Burma, which was given the name Balaenoptera edeni. In 1913 whales off the coast of South Africa were described as Balaenoptera brydei, the name being given to honor Johan Bryde, Norwegian consul and pioneer of the South African whaling industry.

By the 1950s, it was commonly thought that they were a single species, which became B. edeni (this is because the first proposed name for any species always has priority) but retained Bryde’s Whale as the common name. Recent genetic work, however, indicates that there are in fact two separate species:

  • Bryde’s Whale, Balaenoptera brydei, who commonly live in tropical and semi tropical areas and it grows to 26 tons and 15 meters(49ft) long.
  • The Pygmy Bryde’s Whale (still often called Eden’s Whale, Balaenoptera edeni), is found in coastal waters of the eastern Indian and western Pacific oceans.

Bryde’s whales are very different in there forms. Five different types have been identified, including at least two smaller ones that tend to stay closer inshore. Complicating matters still further, there are forms which appear to be intermediate between Bryde’s Whale and the Sei Whale.

In general, Bryde’s Whales have a very broad and short head, with between 40 and 70 ventral grooves, and relatively large eyes. They can be recognized by the 3 parallel ridges on the head, from the tip of the snout back to the blowhole. (The other rorquals have just one ridge.) They have a single 3 to 4 meter vertical blow. The prominently curved, pointed dorsal fin is easily seen when a Bryde’s Whale surfaces. The flippers are small and slender; the broad, centrally notched tail flukes never break the surface.

Color varies — the back is generally dark grey or blue to black, the under area is a lighter cream shading to grayish purple on the belly. Some have a number of whitish-grey spots, which may be scars from parasites or shark attacks.