Balaenoptera edeni - The Bryde's Whale

Also known as the Tropical Whale or Eden’s Whale, the Bryde’s Whale resembles a number of other whale species’ outward appearance, which often leads to misidentification. Bryde's Whale resembles the Sei Whale most significantly, but also bears resemblance to the Fin and Minke varieties. The name is pronounced “Brood-ess”, and comes from one of the pioneers of whaling in South Africa, Johan Bryde.

Did you know? Bryde's Whale females nurse their calves for 6 months, with no paternal influence. At the end of the weaning period, the mother leaves the calf to fend for itself.

What makes this whale identifiable to those with a keen eye is the three ridges that run longitudinally and parallel to one another along the top of the whale’s head. These are at the same level as the two blowholes. Because this is a baleen whale, it needs to expand its mouth when swallowing large amounts of water. For this, it has grooves along the lower jaw, which allow it to concertina open and closed more effectively.

This whale is dark grey or black, with white markings on its throat and chin.

Size

Adult Bryde’s Whales reach a length of between 11.5 and 14.5 m.

Weight

The average weight of a fully-grown Bryde’s Whale is between 12 and 20 tonnes.

Habitat

Interestingly, there appears to be two different kinds of Bryde’s Whales. One occupies the offshore waters and migrates to some extent, while the other stays inshore (where it is shallower and warmer) throughout the year and seasons. It opts for tropical, subtropical and temperate waters through the central strip of the oceans of the world.

Distribution

The Bryde’s Whale is found off the shores of Western Australia, Fiji, South Africa, Japan and Sri Lanka.

The best places to see them in South Africa are on the the Cape Whale Coast – this route includes Pringle Bay, Hermanus, and Gansbaai; which are all an easy hour or two from Cape Town. Even closer to town, see them on the False Bay coast which is only about half an hour from the Mother City.

Also see them at St Sebastian Bay, near Witsand, on the Cape West Coast, which is also home to towns like Langebaan, Paternoster and Yzerfontein, the Garden Route – from Mossel Bay to Plettenberg Bay, and even further on to Storms River, Bryde’s whales can be seen during the latter half of the year. And finally, St Lucia on the Elephant Coast (less than three hours’ drive from Durban) is the best place to see these gentle giants in KwaZulu Natal.

Diet

The Bryde’s Whale has between 250 and 365 baleen plates in its ample jaws. These are hair-like structures that sieve the water and trap small fish and krill in the plates. They do this in a dramatic series of lunges into schools of prey, their mouths gaping with impressive scale.

Socialisation

These whales are not known for their curiosity, but have been occasionally inclined to approach fishing vessels and swim with them for a while. They can be solitary, or can live with between one and seven other whales in a pod. Mothers and calves frequently stay together for some time.

Bryde’s Whales can lift their entire body out of the water in an acrobatic display of power when they breach. This is a fantastic sight to witness for onlookers.

Reproduction

In subtropical waters, the Bryde’s Whale is likely to breed only once a year while those in the warmer waters can breed all year round. One calf is born, and is nursed solely by the mother and the other females in her pod. The calf reaches sexual maturity at between 8 and 11 years old.

Gestation

The gestation period of the Bryde’s Whale is one year.

Life Expectancy

Bryde’s Whales can live for about 50 years in the wild.

Threats

As with most whales, the biggest threat to the Bryde’s Whale is humankind. Fishing nets and equipment has caused major injury and death, while whaling has been somewhat of a threat, although not as much as it has to other species.

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