What is a Bryde's Whale?

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

The Bryde's whale, pronounced broo-duhz whale, is a type of baleen whale living close to the coast in tropical and temperate waters with a temperature of 61 to 72 °F (16 to 22 °C). Like other baleen whales, Bryde's whales have thin plates instead of teeth that they use to filter small animals out of the water for their food. The whale is named after Norwegian whaler Johan Bryde, who served as the Norwegian consul to South Africa in the early 20th century and set up the first whaling station there.


While the Bryde's whale was originally classified as the species Balaenoptera brydei, this scientific name is no longer used. The previously distinct B. brydei and B. edeni, and according to some taxonomies, B. omurai as well, were combined as B. edeni by the 1950s. The group retains the common name Bryde's whale, and is closely related to the Blue whale (B. musculus), the world's largest mammal.

Bryde's whales are among the larger whales, measuring up to 55 feet (17 meters), and weighing up to 90,000 pounds (41,000 kg), with males slightly smaller than females. They have large heads, comprising 25% of the body, and large eyes. Bryde's whales are dark greyish blue to black on the back, and cream or lavender on the belly. They have a curved, pointed, and erect dorsal fin far down the back, a broad tail, and relatively small flippers.

Bryde's whales typically travel alone or in pairs, though they may congregate in small groups of up to 20 individuals around a food source. Their behavior is unusual compared to other baleen whales, as they sometimes exhale underwater, surface unexpectedly, and suddenly change swimming direction. They dive four about five to 15 minutes after feeding, and normally swim at a rate of one to four miles per hour (1.6 to 6.4 km/h), though they are able to reach speeds of 12 to 15 miles per hour (19 to 24 km/h).

The diet of a Bryde's whale includes plankton, krill, shellfish, and fish. They breed every other year, and nurse for six to 12 months. While there is a peak in breeding during the fall, a Bryde's whale can breed in any season. They are the only baleen whales that do not always migrate, though some groups do migrate seasonally to seek out warmer waters.

There are estimated to be up to 100,000 Bryde's whales. Unfortunately, however, there is not currently enough data to determine the population trends. The Bryde's whale is one of the species protected by The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a wiseGEEK editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

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