20 things you didn’t know about dwarf minke whales
If Shona could live under the sea, she would. Hailing from New Zealand, the would-be mermaid has spent much of her young life diving and exploring some of the most beautiful coves on earth, but it wasn’t until over a year ago that she landed her ultimate dream job, living and working on the Great Barrier Reef.
Dive into a magical underwater paradise with Shona and discover 20 things about the elusive species that is the dwarf minke whale.
1. Queensland is the only place in the world where humans can interact with them. From sharks and turtles, to Maori wrasse and manta rays, you can swim with almost every species that resides on the Great Barrier Reef, including minke whales. And, Ribbon Reefs in Tropical North Queensland is where you can get up close and personal with these majestic animals.
2. It’s a short and sweet visit. Showing up on the reef every June and July, the minke whales only stay in town for a few weeks. They are the only known predictable aggregation in the world!
3. The minke whale migration through the Great Barrier Reef was only discovered in the mid-1980’s.
4. They can grow up to eight metres in length. That’s almost as long as a double-decker bus (8.38m)!
5. They have one calf each year which are born at approximately two metres long. That’s longer than the height of a baby giraffe.
6. Like fingerprints are to humans, the white and grey markings on the sides of a minke whale are unique to each whale, making each one different from the next!
7. They live to approximately 60 years old, which is much younger than the 70-90 year expectancy of a blue whale (the second longest living whale in the world). The minke whale is also a baby in comparison to the 70 year expectancy of a sperm whale, the 60-100 year expectancy of a humpback whale, and the 70-80 year expectancy of a killer whale.
8. They may not be the oldest, but minke whales are one of the fastest types of whales. They can travel at speeds of up to 22 kilometres per hour, which is fast for a whopping whale!
9. Like humpback whales, minke whales are baleen feeders. This means they munch on krill and small fish with their comb-like rows of bristles which allow water to flow through but traps their food.
10. One way to tell how old a minke whale is by counting the waxy layers in their ears (eww, gross!)
11. Mother minke whales only wean their calves for approximately 6 months. This is the shortest time for any cetacean which includes whales, dolphins, and porpoises.
12. Minke whales can hold their breath for up to 25 minutes! This is the average time for a whale, however, the sperm whale can hold their breath for a whopping 90 minutes!
13. The average gestation period for minke whales is 10 months, making it the shortest gestation period of all cetaceans.
14. Adult minke whales can weigh in just under 10,000 kilograms!
15. These whales rarely have predators, however, can be preyed upon by packs of killer whales and some large sharks.
16. When underwater you can hear the minke whales singing to each other, which is their main form of communication. If you have ever wanted to speak whale to an actual whale, here is your chance!
17. Mike Ball Dive Expeditions & Eye to Eye Marine Encounters are the only tours that offer snorkelling and diving trips out to the reef where minkes are found! Departing Cairns, trips range from four to seven nights and include up to a massive 22 dives.
18. The friendly creatures are the focus of a collaborative research effort between local tourism operators and James Cook University.
19. The tours allow visitors to contribute directly to ongoing research including tracking, tagging and conservation efforts with the minke whales.
20. As the minke whale is a protected species, it is a crime to hunt them. Therefore, the combined conservation efforts of the operators and visitors are important to the continuation of the whales making their annual journey through the Great Barrier Reef.