BRYDE’S WHALE – Balaenoptera edeni.
Identification: Bryde’s whales can attain 14m and 20 tonnes. The body is sleek and dark-grey to mottled with a lighter underbelly. They have a prominent erect and hooked dorsal fin approx. three quarters down the body. When seen from the surface they can be difficult to distinguish from the minke and sei whales, however they have three distinct ridges along the top jaw which are not found in the other species.
Biology: Little is known. Gestation seems to be about a year and the resulting calf is then nurtured for another year before the female falls pregnant once again. Sexual maturity is reached at 12m for males and 13m for females after between 7 and 13 years.
Behaviour: There appear to be two populations off the Western and Eastern Cape – one remaining mostly offshore and migrating seasonally, while the other population is more or less resident in shallower waters. Bryde’s whales feed on small crustaceans and shoaling fish, often scooping up huge mouthfuls by lunging up from depth. Being elusive animals, they tend to shy away from boats and seldom provide a good sighting unless feeding, although this year (2003), a particular individual has shown more than just a passing curiosity in our boat. Sightings of Bryde’s whales are most common from late Summer into Winter when they are often seen “‘running” with common dolphins or when shoaling fish are closest to the shore – see the sardine run.