Balaenoptera physalus   (Linnaeus,  1758) (Whale)
Organism information awaits expert curation
Class: Mammalia

Size: Male: 21 m; Female: 26 m.

Weight: 80 tons

Color: The coloration is dark grey to brownish-black on the back and sides. The head has asymmetric pigmentation, with the right lower jaw white, and the left dark or gray. Below, the animal is white, including the undersides of the flukes and flippers. Light grey with white belly, occasional blotches of orange/yellow, blaze or chevron extending from eye across back.

The Fin Whale is the second largest of the great whales, after the Blue Whale Balaenoptera musculus.

A large and sleek whale, the Fin Whale has a narrow, V-shaped snout. The top of the head is flat, with a prominent median ridge. The back, from the dorsal fin to the flukes, is distinctly ridged (thus the name ‘razorback’). The ventral grooves, numbering 56-100, extend to the navel or beyond. The falcate dorsal fin is up to and sometimes more than 60 cm tall. It is located about one-third of the length forward from the fluke notch. Blow readily visible-10 m(33') tall, straight column. Curved dorsal fin closer to tail.

There are 260-480 baleen plates on each side, reaching a maximum length of 72 cm and a width of 30 cm. The front baleen plates on the right side are white or yellowish-white. The remainder of the baleen plates on the right side, and all those on the left side are striped with alternate bands of yellowish-white and bluish-grey. The fringes of the plates are brownish-grey to grayish white.

The dorsal fin, in travelling whales, appears on the surface shortly after the blow. The blow is tall (4-6m high), and shaped like an inverted cone.

Fin Whales have more and coarser baleen plates than Blue Whales. They filter out the larger planktonic animals and small fish that travel in shoals. Fin Whales, the only known asymmetrically colored cetaceans, have been reported as using their white right side to confuse and concentrate schools of fish. This is believed to allow them to get more fish in one group. Whales are reported to frequently hunt in pairs. Their diet consists of schooling fish, euphasiids and other invetebrates, copepods (when young), squid

Fin Whales are known to make loud low-frequency sounds that may be heard hundreds of kilometer. The sounds they make may be a way of keeping in contact with the others, so that each Fin Whale or pair may be a part of a very large herd scattered across the ocean. It is reported that Fin Whales may easily approached very close in a small inflatable boat. The whales are quite aware of the human presence and exercise great caution to avoid overturning the boat.

Synonym (s)
Balaena antipodarum Tomilin, 1957
Balaena antiquorum Fischer, 1829
Balaena boops Linnaeus, 1758
Balaena mysticetus major Kerr, 1792
Balaena physalis Kerr, 1792
Balaena physalus Linnaeus 1758
Balaena quoyi Fischer, 1829
Balaena rostrata australis Desmoulins, 1822
Balaena sulcata Neill, 1811
Balaenoptera antarctica Gray, 1846
Balaenoptera aragous Farines & Carcasonne, 1829
Balaenoptera australis Gray, 1846
Balaenoptera blythii Anderson, 1879
Balaenoptera brasiliensis Gray, 1846
Balaenoptera gibbar Lacepede, 1804
Balaenoptera mediterraneensis Lesson, 1828
Balaenoptera mediterranensis Cabrera, 1961
Balaenoptera musculus Van Beneden & Gervais, 1880
Balaenoptera patachonica Lahille, 1905
Balaenoptera patachonicus Burmeister, 1865
Balaenoptera patagonica Dabbene, 1902
Balaenoptera quoyii Lonnberg, 1906
Balaenoptera rorqual Lacepede, 1804
Balaenoptera sulcata arctica Schlegel, 1841
Balaenoptera swinhoii Gray, 1866
Balaenoptera tenuirostris Sweeting, 1840
Balaenoptera velifera Cope, 1869
Balaenoptera velifera copei Elliot, 1901
Balaenopteris guibusdam Tomilin, 1957
Benedenia knoxii Gray, 1864
Dubertus rhodinsulensis Tomilin, 1957
Physalis vulgaris Fleming, 1828
Physalus antarcticus Gray, 1850
Physalus australis Gray, 1850
Physalus brasiliensis Gray 1850
Physalus dugundii Heddle, 1856
Physalus fasciatus Gray, 1850
Physalus patachonicus Burmeister, 1866
Physalus verus Billberg, 1828
Pterobalaena communis Van Beneden, 1857
Pterobalaena gigantea michrochira Barkos, 1862
Rorqualus musculus F. Cuvier, 1836
Sibbaldius tectirostris Cope, 1869
Sibbaldius tuberosus Cope, 1869
Swinhoia chinensis Gray, 1868

Common Name (s)
• Finback
• Finner (English)
• Common Rorqual (English)
• Razorback
• Thimingalam (Tamil)
• Fin Whale (English)
• Common Finback Whale (English)
• Common Finwhale (English)
• Herring Whale (English)
• Razor Back (English)
• Blue whale (English)
• Finback Whale (English)
Economic Importance and Threats
Threats:  Anthropogenic
(Passive whaling continues to be a significant threat)

Habitat:  Open Sea, Coastal
Prey:  Small invertebrates, fish shoals and squids.
IUCN Status:  Endangered


• West Bengal, Kolkata INDIA
• Maharashtra, Virar INDIA (Record: 6/8/1965)
• Maharashtra, Mumbai INDIA (Record: 9/10/1965)
• Goa, Candolim INDIA (Record: 04/1970)
• Gujarat, Off Magdalla INDIA (Record: 13/08/1971)
• Tamil Nadu, Kanniyakumari INDIA (Record: 20/11/1995)
• Tamil Nadu, Rameswaram INDIA (Record: 22/01/1983)
• Maharashtra, Mumbai INDIA
• Gujarat, Surat INDIA
• Tamil Nadu, Gulf of Mannar INDIA
• INDIA (Record: 1800-2000)

Literature Source(s)
  • Sathasivam K (2004) Marine mammals of India Universities Press(India) private limited, Hyderabad, India 180 pp Available at - NIO, Goa
  • Society for the Management of European Biodiversity Data (2009) World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) Available at -
  • (2003) IUCN Red list of threatened species Available at -
  • Borkar, M (2005) Marine mammals, turtles and crocodiles: A field manual NIO, Goa 63 pp Available at - NIO
  • Marine Biological Station, Chennai, Tamil Nadu (2003) Checklist of marine fauna of Tamil Nadu Department of Environment, Government of Tamil Nadu Available at -
  • Dr. Ramesh, R; Dr. Nammalwar, P and Dr. Gowri, VS (2008) Database on coastal information of Tamil Nadu Report Submitted to Environmental Information System (ENVIS) Centre, Department of Environment, Government of Tamil Nadu Institute for Ocean Management, Anna University, Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Available at -
  • Kumaran, PL (2002) Marine mammal research in India: A review and critique of the methods Current Science Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore 83(10) 1210-1220 Available at -
  • Pillai, PKM and Augustine, SK (2000) A code list of common marine living resources of the Indian seas CMFRI Special Publication No.12 CMFRI 1-115 Available at -
  • Padmanaban P and Dinesh K.P (2011) A checklist of Marine Mammals of India Marine Biology Reginal centre, Zoological Survey of India 4pp Available at -
  • Jefferson, TA; Leatherwood, S and Webber, MA (2006) Marine mammals of the world World biodiversity database Available at -

Page last updated on:2012-11-07

Back to Search