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Fin whale

Fin whale

Balaenoptera physalus physalus

Fin whale
Up to 20 m
50 t
Small shrimps (krill), small fishes
Sighting frequency
Ship strikes, underwater noise, chemical pollution, microplastics
Conservation status
Conservation status

The fin whale is the second largest animal to have ever existed on the planet after the blue whale. It is a uniform slate-grey in colour, except for a white area on the right mandible and the head, which is lighter shades of gray. Its distinctly hydrodynamic shape allows it to swim up to 37 km/h. The blow is up to 6 metres high, and the tail is usually not visible above the water surface when diving.

This large cetacean is the only mysticete (cetacean with baleen instead of teeth) regularly found in the Mediterranean: thanks to its gular grooves, it is able to open its mouth to double its volume to filter krill.



Fin whales are very long-lived animals that can reach 80-90 years of age. Unlike odontocetes, they are not able to echolocalise ('visualise' their surroundings through sounds). Instead, their low-frequency vocalisations, which, at around 20 Hz, are inaudible to the human ear, allow them to communicate with their con-specifics even hundreds of kilometres away.

Fin whales are often encountered alone; the closest bond is between mother and calf before weaning. The fin whale is the species most at-risk for collisions with large ships, a phenomenon that poses a serious threat to the Mediterranean population.

  • Fin whale
  • Fin whale

How to recognise species and distinguish individuals

From the shape of the dorsal fin and the notches on its posterior margin; from the whitish coloring on the right side of the head that differs slightly in each animal.

  • Fin whale

The fin whale is the second largest animal ever to exist on Earth, after the blue whale, and can live up to 90 years

Did you know that…

At birth the 'baby' is just over 5 m long and weighs 2 t. During the first 6-7 months of life, it takes in 100 L of breast milk daily, growing about 3 cm and 60 kg per day until it reaches 10-12 m and 11-13 t.

In the Sanctuary, fin whales can dive to depths of over 400 m to filter the small shrimp they feed on.

  • Fin whale