AnAge entry for Balaena mysticetus

Classification (HAGRID: 02275)

Kingdom: Animalia
    Phylum: Chordata
        Class: Mammalia (Taxon entry)
            Order: Cetacea (Taxon entry)
                Family: Balaenidae
                    Genus: Balaena
Balaena mysticetus
Common name
Bowhead whale

Lifespan, ageing, and relevant traits

Maximum longevity
211 years (wild)
ref. 21
Sample size
Data quality

These animals exhibit slow growth and high survival. Growth may be faster in females than in males, and it slows down markedly at around 40-50 years of age. Sexual maturity is probably reached at age 20-25. Using an indirect method for age estimation based on aspartic acid racemization, the bowhead whale has been recorded as the longest-lived mammal thanks to one male estimated to be 211 years-old. The same study found three other male specimens estimated to be over 100 years of age. Very few obvious signs of pathology were found in old bowheads. The 211 year-old specimen was reported to appear old with tough meat and blubber. One of the centenarian males exhibited a spondylitic lesion on the vertebra. Reproductive senescence has not been reported, though detailed studies are lacking [0021]. While these longevity claims may be overestimated, it is likely that bowhead whales can live longer than humans and are amongst the longest-living mammals.

Bowhead whales have been shown to not get cataracts. This could possibly be due to high levels of sphingolipid content in their lens membranes, which may prevent oxidation [1310].

Life history traits (averages)

Female sexual maturity
8,212 days
Male sexual maturity
8,212 days
396 days
Litter size
1 (viviparous)
Litters per year
Inter-litter interval
1,642 days
Weight at birth
900,000 g
Weight at weaning
Adult weight
100,000,000 g
Postnatal growth rate


No information on metabolism is available.


External Resources

Integrated Taxonomic Information System
ITIS 180533
Animal Diversity Web
ADW account (if available)
Encyclopaedia of Life
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NCBI Taxonomy
Taxonomy ID 27602
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Ageing Literature
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Google Image search
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