Last modified: Thursday October 12th, 2000

Bryde's whale

Balaenoptera edeni (Anderson, 1878)


This species was first described in 1878 based on a specimen stranded in Burma. The common name, Bryde's whale, was given in honor of Norwegian consul Johan Bryde, who built the first whaling stations in South Africa. In 1913, the species was described by Olson as Balaenoptera brydei. In 1950, Junge concluded that the descriptions of B. edeni and B. brydei were synonymous and that therefor B. edeni, being the first, should be the species name. There appear to be a number of different morphological forms of the Bryde's whale, which may be either regional differences or may be different subspecies. Rice (1998) states that there is a growing body of evidence that B. edeni and B. brydei should be considered separate species.


Bryde's whales typically reach a length of 13 m, with a maximum of 15.3 m. Females are slightly larger than males. The color is variable, but usually the dorsal side is blueish black and the ventral side white or yellowish. A dark blueish grey area extends from the throat to the flippers.

The flippers are slender and somewhat pointed. The dorsal fin is pointed and falcate. The ventral grooves extend to the umbilicus. In the sei whale, the grooves end mid-body. A feature, unique to the Bryde's whale is the presence of 2 lateral ridges that run from the tip of the snout to the blowholes, one on each side of the median ridge that is common to all rorqual whales.

The baleen is about 19 cm wide and about 50 cm long. The inner margin is concave. They usually have 250-280 fully developed baleen plates


Probably, the Bryde's whale does not migrate a lot. There are indications of some shifts towards the equator in winter and towards the temperate zones in summer. The Bryde's whale can be found in the tropical and temperate areas of the Southern Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. On the Northern hemisphere, this species can be found in the tropical and temperate areas of the Pacific and the Western Atlantic, as well as in the Indian Ocean.

Population dynamics and life history

Females become sexually mature at about 12 m in length, at which time they are probably 10 years of age (age determination based on laminations in the ear plug). Males become sexually mature at the age of 9-13 years (12 m in length). Gestation lasts about 1 year. Neonate calves are about 3.4 m in length. The calves are approximately 7.1 m when they are weaned at about 6 months. Female probably give birth less than once every two years.

Population status

Until the 1970s, catches of Bryde's whales were recorded with those of sei whales. Because of this the status of this species is rather unclear. The International Whaling Commission recognizes the following stocks:

The IUCN lists this species as Insufficiently known.


The exploitation history of the Bryde's whale is somewhat obscure. Prior to 1970, the catches of Bryde's whales were included in the catch statistics for the sei whale. Once the Bryde's whale was treated at a separate species by the IWC, there have been commercial catch quota set for only a limited number of stocks, due to the uncertainties of the sizes of the various populations. A number of animals have been collected under scientific permits. The following catch quota were set:


In some areas, the Bryde's whale feeds predominantly on krill. In other areas, schooling fish, such as pilchards, anchovies, herring and mackerel, seem to be preferred. Also bonito, shark and squid have been reported as being part of the diet of this species.


Cummings, W.C. (1985)
Bryde's whale Balaenoptera edeni Anderson, 1878. In: S.H. Ridgway and R.J. Harrison (eds.): Handbook of Marine Mammals, Vol. 3: The Sirenians and Baleen Whales. pp.137-154. Academic Press.
Klinowska, M. (1991)
Dolphins, Porpoises and Whales of the World. The IUCN Red Data Book. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.
Rice, D.W. (1998)
Marine mammals of the world - Systematics and distribution
Society of Marine Mammalogy Special Publication Number 4, 231 pp.

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