Whales have always been a subject of wonder. Their enormous size, habits, and social behavior hint to us to a great extent about their intelligence. With so many gigantic species swimming in the blue, open waters, it often raises a question: Which are the largest whales? Therefore, in this article, we bring before you the Top 15+ biggest whales in the world. Without much ado, let’s jump on to our article.
18) Dwarf Sperm Whale
Scientific name: Kogia sima
Location: Temperate and Tropical waters
Sperm Whales come in a wide spectrum of sizes, from the one among the biggest whales to among the smallest. The Dwarf Sperm Whale inhabits the tropical and temperate ocean waters, but preferably in the warmer waters. Their body size ranges between 2 to 2.8 m, and their weight lies in the range of 140 to 270 kg (300 to 600 lb). The body is grey. The Dwarf Pygmy whales mainly feed on squids, crustaceans like crabs, and deepwater fishes.
17) Pygmy Sperm Whale
Scientific name: Kojia breviceps
Location: Temperate and tropical waters
The Pygmy Sperm Whale is another relative to the Dwarf Sperm Whale. They belong to the class of toothed whales and can grow up to a length of 4.2m. They weigh anywhere between 450-500 kg (880-900 lb) and use a unique method to look for their prey, echolocation.
Cephalopods serve to be their primary diet, which includes squids, octopuses, etc. These whales, along with the Dwarf Sperm Whale, have a unique feature among Cetaceans; they use the ink-like substance as a defense mechanism, quite similar to squids and octopuses.
16) Blainville’s Beaked Whale
Scientific name: Mesopladon densirostris
Location: Mid- Atlantic, Pacific Islands
The Beaked Whale derives its name from its distinctive feature, the moderately long beak-like structure. The Blainville’s Beaked whales are relatively smaller and grow up to a length of 4.6m (14.5 ft) and weigh anywhere between 800 kg (1800 lb).
These whales are found in the tropical and warmer waters and forage primarily by suction feeding. Organisms like squids, small fish, and octopuses constitute their main diet.
15) Beluga Whale
Scientific name: Delphinapterus leucas
Location: Arctic ocean and in nearby seas
Next up on your list of Biggest Whales on the planet, we have the friendliest gentle giant, the Beluga Whale. Known for their distinctive white coloration, Beluga whales are mostly found in the cold Arctic waters, where they are migratory.
They belong to the group of smaller-toothed whales and are highly social animals. Beluga whales use echolocation for hunting, navigating, and communication and are known to exhibit a wide spectrum of calls.
They can even imitate human speech to a certain extent and are among the most common Cetaceans to be kept in public aquariums. They grow up to a length of 3.5- 5m (11-18ft) and weigh anywhere between 1100-1600 kg (2,430-3,500 lb).
Scientific name: Monodon monoceros
Location: Arctic ocean
The closest relative to the Beluga Whales, Narwhals are known for their single long tusk, which serves to be their characteristic feature. They are found in the colder waters of the Arctic and live in small groups, whose members can sometimes be as many as 20. Narwhals show seasonal migration.
These small whale species belong to the class of toothed whales, with its tusk (5-10 ft) being a modified canine tooth. Narwhals may grow up to a length of 5 ft and weigh anywhere between 800-1500 kg (1760-3500 lb).
Their diet is mainly Arctic-based, where they feed on Arctic halibut and cod, shrimps, squids, and other fishes found in the Arctic waters.
Scientific name: Orcinus orca
Location: North Atlantic, coasts of Argentina, South Africa, New Zealand
The Killer Whales, or Orcas, occupy the 13th position on our list of Biggest Whales in the world. They belong to the family of toothed whales and have a wide distribution in the waters, from the Arctic to the Antarctic.
Orcas are highly social animals. They hunt in packs, much similar to wolves, and their prey mainly consists of seals, penguins, smaller whales, and their calves, fishes like Chinook, dolphins, rays, and smaller shark species.
Orcas are apex predators and have a very keen sense of hearing and smell. They use echolocation and exhibit a wide array of vocalizations. Orcas grow up to a length of 6-8 m, with females being slightly smaller and weighing up to 3-4 tons.
12) Southern Minke Whale
Scientific name: Balaenoptera bonaerensis
Minke Whales are the smallest species of Rorquals, a group of whales that also houses the largest animal on earth, the Blue Whale. The Southern Minke Whale, a sub-species of the Minke Whale, is mostly found in the Southern Hemisphere of the planet.
They have an average body length of 9 m (30 ft) and can weigh up to 10 tons. They are exclusively euphausiid (krills) feeders and live and hunt in groups.
11) Northern Bottlenose whales
Scientific name: Hyperoodon ampullatus
Location: Atlantic ocean
The Northern Bottlenose Whales is a member of the Ziphiid family (beaked whales), known for their deep-sea habitat. They are known for their deep-sea dives and are one of the deepest diving mammals.
As the name suggests, these species occur in the North Atlantic Ocean and are deep-sea creatures known to live below 500m below the surface. Their deep-sea habitat has made their diet mostly of deep-sea squids and feeds on redfish, skates, and dogfish.
They reach a length of 9.8-10 m (32ft), and weigh between 5.8-7.5 tons (12,790- 16,530 lb).
10) Baird’s Beaked Whale and Arnoux’s Beaked Whale
Scientific name: Berardius arnuxii, Berardius bairdii
Location: Southern Hemisphere (Arnoux), North Pacific Ocean (Baird’s whale)
These two species of Whales are two species of the same genera, one inhabiting the Northern waters while the latter inhabiting the Southern waters. These species reach an average length of 12- 13 m, with females being slightly larger than the males.
In the toothed whale family, the Baird’s and the Arnoux’s Whale are the second-largest species, with only the sperm whale before them. These species of whales are deep-sea creatures that live in the depth of 2000-3000 m and mostly feed on deep-sea creatures.
9) Bryde’s Whale
Scientific name: Balaenoptera brydei
Location: Pacific, Atlantic, and India
The Bryde’s Whale is not a single species but a constitution of 3-4 closely related species. The distinction has not been made due to the lack of research on these giant sea creatures.
These are moderately sized whales, with an average body length of 12 m, with certain species being slightly over 13 m, weighing approximately 15-25 tons. These species of whales are baleen whales, too, and are close relative to the Sei Whale.
They feed on a wide variety of fish, plankton, crustaceans, anchovy, etc.
8) Gray Whale
Scientific name: Eschrichtius robustus
Location: North Pacific
On the 8th position in our list of Biggest whales in the world, we have the Gray Whale. They belong to the group of Baleen Whales that uses the mechanism of filter-feeding. They derive their name from the characteristic deep grey-white coloration.
These are large species of whales, with their average body length being 14-15 m (44-49 ft) and weighing approximately 36-40 tons. Their lack of dorsal fin is a characteristic feature of this species.
They feed on crustaceans, which house in the seabed. Feeding is done by scooping off sediments, where the organisms get trapped between their baleen (plate-like structures that act as sieves) while the sand is eliminated.
7) Right Whale
Scientific name: Eubalaena glacialis, Eubalaena japonica
Location: Atlantic, Gulf of Alaska & Bering Sea
The 7th Biggest Whale in the world, the Right Whale is a collective of 3 large subspecies, The North Atlantic Right Whale, the North Pacific Right Whale, and the Southern Right Whale.
These whales have extremely thick bodies and can weigh as much as 100 tons. They have a general body length of 15-17 m, with the North Pacific species being the largest.
These whales are baleen too, and they feed mainly on copepods, krills, and other planktons. Their skin is characterized by large blotches, which are caused by parasitic whale lice and other crustaceans. These parasites attach themselves to the whale’s bodies and derive nutrition from them.
6) Humpback Whale
Scientific name: Megaptera novaeangliae
Location: North Pacific, Mid- Atlantic ocean
The Humpback Whale is one of the largest whales in the world, with a body length of nearly 17m and weighing approx 40 tons. The Humpback whales can be distinguished from other species by their relatively larger pectoral fins.
They are migratory animals, are constantly on the move, and are said to travel approx 65,000 km annually. Humpback whales are baleen whales too, and they primarily feed on plankton, krill fish, and other small fishes.
They are popular for the frequent water breaching, which serves as major tourist attractions for whale watching.
5) Sperm Whale
Scientific name: Physeter macrocephalus
Location: All oceans
In the 5th position on our list of Biggest Whales in the world, we have the Sperm Whale, the largest existing toothed whale. Adult males grow up to a length of 16 m and weigh more than 40 tons, while females are quite shorter and weigh much less.
They have the largest brains of any animal on the planet. They feed on a wide range of species, which mostly includes giant squids, octopuses, a large variety of fish, rays, and sharks. You can spot these whales in the colder Arctic waters and sometimes even in the temperate and the tropical.
4) Bowhead Whale
Scientific name: Balaena mysticetus
Location: Arctic ocean
The only surviving species of the genus Balaena, The Bowhead whales, are found exclusively in the cold Arctic waters. Bowhead whales hold many records for themselves, like the largest mouth of any animal, and might also be the longest living ones, as they can live up to 200 years of age.
These whales have large bodies with dark coloration. Bowhead whales derive their name from their triangular skull, whose primary function is to crack the thick ice layers.
Their body reaches up to a length of 17.5 m and shows sexual dimorphism, where females are larger than males. Their lacking of the dorsal fin is a characteristic feature.
3) Sei Whale
Scientific name: Balaenoptera borealis
Location: Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans
The Sei Whale is the 3rd Largest whale in the world and is baleen, i.e., they feed by a filter mechanism. They are found in most waters but avoid the Arctic and the hot tropical areas.
These Whales reach a length of 19 m and weigh nearly 30 tons. They mostly consume zooplanktons, krills, and other smaller crustaceans, in huge numbers that weigh nearly 900 kg (200 lb). The Sei Whale is the fastest of all whale species and can swim at a speed of 50 mp/h.
2) Fin Whale
Scientific name: Balaenoptera physalus
Location: Alaska, Mid-Atlantic, Pacific islands
Now, let’s talk about the second largest species of whales on the planet, the Fin Whale. Their wide distribution affects their sizes to some extent, where the Southern species were a bit longer than their Northern counterparts.
On average, they lie between 20-22 m and may weigh between 40- 50 tons. However, some recorded individuals have displayed lengths as much as 25 m. However, those are extremely rare cases.
They are also filter feeders, with their diet comprised of schooling fishes, copepods, small crustaceans, krill, herring, cods, salmons, etc.
1) Blue Whale
Scientific name: Balaenoptera musculus
Location: All oceans except the Arctic
Blue Whales are undoubtedly the biggest whales in the world. There are currently four subspecies spread across the oceans of the world. They grow up to an alarming length of 29 m or more and weigh approx. 200 tons.
They have a long and slender body, with mostly grey coloration. Their dorsal fin region bears a unique pattern that helps to identify this species. These gigantic animals mostly feed on krills, where they take water into their mouth and flush it through the baleen plates.
Extensive whaling had driven them to the brink of extinction until its ban by the Whaling Commission.
Whales are now a highly endangered species. Indiscriminate whaling, tangling in discarded fishing nets, and collision against vessels serve to be the primary cause of the decline.
Though many countries have now framed various laws to protect these gentle giants, many countries like Japan, Canada, and Russia continue to hunt them.
Whale meat, fat, oils, skin, and bones serve to be primary objects of local consumption and export, especially to countries like China, where they are held for their medicinal value.
Whaling in the 19th and 20th centuries in numbers of hundreds and thousands have dwindled their population to a few thousand. It’s high time to take suitable steps to conserve these apex predators, as they are highly essential to the marine ecosystem and, in turn to the world.
A complete ban on whaling can restore their population to normal but might take more than a millennium to do so.
Here, we conclude our article on “Largest Whales in the world.” We will be bringing many more such articles soon, so stay tuned and keep an eye on our website. Until then, goodbye.
Monty is a founder of How It See. Being a life science student in a reputed university, he always wonders about an eclectic correlation between science and nature. After engaging in various college projects, Monty determined to share all his knowledge with you as a writer. In the meantime, he loves to research and study about the various types of colorful animals.