American Oceans

10 Biggest Whales in The World

Whales are among the largest animals on planet Earth and are also fascinating creatures. But which are the biggest whales?

huge whale swimming near surface

Below, read about the ten largest whale species. We’ll rank them from the blue whale–the largest animal in the world–to the minke whale, which still reaches an astounding size.

Then we’ll answer all your FAQs.

10 Biggest Whales Ranked

Almost all whale species are massive, but these are the most enormous.

Whales are fascinating creatures. Their large size and gentle demeanor put a damper on the thought that large animals are dangerous.

1. Blue Whale

large blue whale

Scientific name: Balaenoptera musculus

Family: Balaenopteridae

Length: 29.9 meters (99 feet)

Distribution: All oceans except the Arctic

The Blue Whale isn’t just the largest whale but also the largest animal of any kind found throughout the world. As you may expect, these beautiful creatures are grayish-blue, with long, slim bodies that allow them to easily glide through ocean waters.

Blue Whales are filter feeders that eat krill. They migrate in the summer close to the poles (though they don’t typically enter the Arctic Ocean) to feed. In the winter, you’ll find blue whales in the tropics for breeding.

Blue whales once had abundant numbers, but 19th-century whaling decimated their populations. They remain on the endangered species list, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act protect the Blue Whale. 

2. Fin Whale

Fin Whale

Scientific name: Balaenoptera physalus

Family: Rorquals

Length: 61-66 ft.

Distribution: Deep offshore waters of all major oceans, specifically in temperate to polar latitudes.

The Fin Shale is the second largest whale species, second only to the Blue Whale. Fin Whales get their name from the distinguished fin on the whale’s back near their tail. They have sleek, streamlined bodies and V-shaped heads. They are black or dark brown on their backs with a white underside.

Fin whales have a diet of krill, crustaceans, squid, and small fish. They consume this simple diet with accordion-like throat pleats that gulp large amounts of food and water. Fin whales lunge into schools of prey with mouths wide open to feast. 

The average length of a Fin Whale is 63 feet long. The population of these large whales significantly decreased during peak whaling in the 1970s, but their numbers have grown since the end of commercial whaling. The largest Fin Whale recorded was 68.4 long tons.

3. Sperm Whale

large sperm whale

Scientific name: Physeter macrocephalus

Family: Physeteridae

Length: 52 ft. 

Distribution: All deep oceans

Sperm whales are some of the most recognized worldwide because of their large heads; they are dark gray, with some Sperm Whales having white patches on their bellies. They are the fourth largest whale species in the world, with an average length of 52 ft. long and weighing 80,000 lbs.

A Sperm Whale consumes three to three and a half percent of its body weight in food every day. Their diet consists of sharks, squid, skates, and fish. The largest recorded Sperm Whale measured 79 feet and weighed 53 tons.

The conservation status of Sperm Whales is vulnerable, and all of their biggest threats result from humans. Whaling is no longer an issue after the end of commercial whaling in the 1980s, but human noise pollution, climate change,  and fishing gear still threaten Sperm Whales. 

4. North Atlantic Right Whale

Right Whale

Scientific name: Eubalaena glacialis

Family: Balaenidae

Length: 46 ft.

Distribution: Coast of the northeastern United States and Canada to the coastal waters of the southern United States.

The North Atlantic Right Whale got its name because of where it resides. This whale species has stocky black bodies with V-shaped blowholes on their backs. They have no dorsal fins and deeply notched tails, and their bellies are either all black or black with white patches.

The largest North Atlantic Right Whale measured 61 ft. long and weighed 234,000 lbs. This whale species feeds on a diet of copepods. Copepods are tiny crustaceans that North Atlantic Right Whales strain through large volumes of water through baleen plates. 

North Atlantic Right Whales migrate from the coastal waters of the Northeastern United States and Canada to the warm coastal waters of the Carolinas and Florida in the winter. Ocean noise affects the North Atlantic Right Whale’s ability to communicate and causes a decrease in population.

5. Bowhead Whale

Bowhead Whale

Scientific name: Balaena mysticetus

Family: Balaenidae

Length: 60 ft.

Distribution: Arctic and subarctic waters

Bowhead whales are baleen whales with large, triangular skulls they use to break the ice in arctic and subarctic waters. This whale species is easily recognizable by its distinctive white chin and dark body. They do not have a dorsal fin and have heads that are one-third of their body length.

Bowhead whales have the largest baleen plates of all whale species in the world. They use these plates to feed on marine invertebrates, including crustaceans, shrimp, krill, and copepods. They also eat small fish and invertebrates.

This large species of whale is in good shape as far as population numbers. In some areas like Greenland, the population of Bowhead whales is endangered. The species is under the least concern in the conservation lists. Commercial whalers previously hunted them for meat, oil, and baleen. 

6. Humpback Whale

large Humpback Whale

Scientific name: Megaptera novaeangliae

Family: Rorquals

Length: 46-56 ft.

Distribution: All oceans around the world

The humpback whale has a growing population and is under the least concern for conservation purposes. Humpback whales are mainly gray or black with white bellies and white undersides on their flukes and flippers, and their long flippers and humped back are their most noticeable features.

Humpback whales are baleen whales, and they swallow large quantities of water and strain through their baleen to eat shrimp-like crustaceans and small fish out of the water. The largest recorded humpback whale was 89 ft. long and weighed 90 tons.

An interesting fact about humpback whales is that females are larger than males. Most animal species have larger males than females. 

7. Sei Whale

Scientific name: Balaenoptera borealis

Family: Rorquals

Length: 60 ft.

Distribution: Subtropical, temperate, and subpolar waters around the world

The Sei whale species gained its name from the Norwegian word for pollock, “seje.” Sei whales are dark gray baleen whales with a ridge on top of its head. They reach nearly 60 feet in length. This size puts them as the third largest species in the world.

Like other baleen whales, the Sei whale eats copepods and krill, schooling fish, and cephalopods but gulps large amounts of water in their mouths and uses their baleen as a sieve. A Sei whale eats about 2,000 pounds of food per day on average. 

8. Gray Whale

Gray Whale

Scientific name: Eschrichtius robustus

Family: Eschrichtiidae

Length: 39 ft.

Distribution: Shallow coastal waters of the North Pacific Ocean

As their name suggests, gray whales have mottled gray bodies and small eyes located above the corners of their mouth. Paddle-shaped, broad pectoral flippers allow for easy swimming through the deep ocean.

Gray whales eat amphipod crustaceans. The gray whale feeds in the summertime in the northern Bering and Chukchi seas. Some feed on the Pacific coast during the summer in Southeast Alaska, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and northern California waters.

9. Bryde’s Whale

Bryde’s Whale

Scientific name: Balaenoptera brydei

Family: Rorquals

Length: 33-38 ft.

Distribution: Warm, temperate oceans like the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans.

Bryde’s whales are commonly mistaken for Sei whales as they are similar in appearance but are smaller and prefer warmer waters. Contrary to most rorquals, Bryde’s whales have three prominent ridges in front of their blowhole, and most rorquals only have one ridge.

There is not enough data on Bryde’s whales to determine their endangerment level, but some scientists believe there are less than 100 Bryde whales in the world located in the Gulf of Mexico. If this is true, then Bryde’s whales are some of the most endangered whale species in the world.

On average, a Bryde’s whale consumes 1,320 to 1,450 pounds of food each day. Their diet consists of copepods, krill, shrimp, red crabs, and schooling fish. Inshore groups prefer anchovies, sardines, mackerel, and herring.

10. Minke Whale

Minke Whale

Scientific name: Balaenoptera acutorostrata

Family: Rorquals

Length: 30 ft. 

Distribution: Throughout the northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans

The minke whale has a tall, sickle-shaped dorsal fin located two-thirds of the way down their body. They are either black or dark gray-brown. A pale chevron back and white underside make them recognizable against other whales. 

Minke whales feast on small schooling fish, crustaceans, and plankton. Minke whales are the smallest baleen whales in North American waters. Minke whales have a good population, boasting as the most abundant rorqual in the world. 

Frequently Asked Questions

If you still have questions about the biggest whales, check out some frequently asked questions below. 

What is the smallest whale in existence?

The dwarf sperm whale is the smallest in existence.

Which whale lives the longest?

The bowhead whale has the longest lifespan.

How big is a blue whale’s newborn on average?

On average, a newborn blue whale calf is 23 feet long and 5,000 to 6,000 pounds.

Are big whales maneuverable? 

Because of their large size, not all big whales are the most agile. Humpback whales are the most maneuverable of the great whales, with the ability to turn their bodies like a dolphin can.

Largest Whales

Do you have a favorite whale from this list of the ten biggest whales? Let us know in the comments below.  

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