Bryde’s whale (/ˈbrʊdəz/ BRUU-dəz Brooder’s), or the Bryde’s whale complex, putatively comprises three species of rorqual and maybe four. The “complex” means the number and classification remains unclear because of a lack of definitive information and research. The common Bryde’s whale (Balaenoptera brydei, Olsen, 1913) is a larger form that occurs worldwide in warm temperate and tropical waters, and the Sittang or Eden’s whale (B. edeni, Anderson, 1879) is a smaller form that may be restricted to the Indo-Pacific. Also, a smaller, coastal form of B. brydei is found off southern Africa, and perhaps another form in the Indo-Pacific differs in skull morphology, tentatively referred to as the Indo-Pacific Bryde’s whale. The recently described Omura’s whale (B. omurai, Wada et al. 2003), was formerly thought to be a pygmy form of Bryde’s, but is now recognized as a distinct species. Rice’s whale (B. ricei), which makes its home solely in the Gulf of Mexico, was once considered a distinct population of Bryde’s whale, but in 2021 it was described as a separate species.
B. brydei gets its specific and common name from Johan Bryde, Norwegian consul to South Africa, who helped establish the first modern whaling station in the country, while B. edeni gets its specific and common names from Sir Ashley Eden, former High Commissioner of Burma (Myanmar). Sittang whale refers to the type locality of the species.
Bryde’s whale Facts
1. The Bryde’s whale is named after a Norwegian man called Johan Bryde who discovered the species when he helped to set up one of the first whaling stations in South Africa.
2. Bryde’s whale can dive to the depth of 1.000 feet and spend 5 to 15 minutes under the water before it returns to the surface of water to breathe.
3. Bryde’s whale can reach 40 to 55 feet in length and up to 90.000 pounds of weight. Males are smaller than females.
4. We can tell Bryde’s whales apart from other similar looking whale species thanks to the three long ridges on the top of their heads, which is unique to only the Bryde’s whale.
5. They have the nickname ‘the tropical whale‘ as they are not usually seen in cooler waters. In New Zealand, they are only regularly seen in the waters around the North Island, with the majority of sightings in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.
6. Bryde’s whale has rough tongue and 250 to 365 baleen plates (comb-like structures) equipped with coarse bristles in its mouth. Baleen plates act like a filter that collects food from the water which whale ingests during the feeding.
7. Research shows the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park is an important area for mother and calf Bryde’s whales.
8. Population estimates conducted in Auckland suggest the Bryde’s whales have a population of around 140 animals. For this reason they have Nationally Critical status in New Zealand.
9. Bryde’s whales are able to feed on three different types of food – fish, krill and plankton. In the Hauraki Gulf, when they are feeding on fish they are usually seen feeding alongside common dolphins and various seabirds. If they are feeding on krill or plankton, we usually find Bryde’s whales along with different species of shearwater and petrel feeding on the same food.
10. They are very shallow divers, spending the majority of their time in the top 10 metres of the water column. When they go for a ‘long dive’ this usually only lasts up to five minutes before they resurface. This is great for whale watching!