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COSEWIC Assessment and Update Status Report on the Bowhead Whale in Canada
- Assessment Summary
- Executive Summary
- COSEWIC History, Mandate, Membership and Definitions
- Lists of Figures, Tables and Appendices
- Species Information
- Population Sizes and Trends
- Limiting Factors and Threats
- Special Significance of the Species
- Existing Protection or Other Status Designations
- Summary of Status Report
- Technical Summary
- Acknowledgements and Authorities Contacted
- Information Sources and Biographical Summary of Report Writer
- Appendix 1: Calculation for Extent and Area of Occurrence of Bowheads
COSEWIC Status Report
Hudson Bay-Foxe Basin population
Davis Strait-Baffin Bay population
The bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) (Linnaeus 1758) is a baleen whale in the family Balaenidae. It is also known as the Greenland whale, Greenland right whale, or polar whale in the English language. In the French language it is known as baleine boréale. In Aboriginal languages of northern Canada, Alaska and Russia, the bowhead whale is known as Arviq or Arvik (Inuktitut and Inuvialuktun), Agkhovik (Inupiat), Akhgvopik (Yupik), or Ittiv (Chukchi).
The bowhead is one of the stockiest of the baleen whales, with a barrel-shaped body and a very large head (about 30% of the total body length) (Figure 1). The upper jaw is bowed sharply upward and there is an average of 330 baleen plates up to 427 cm long in each side of the upper jaw (Haldiman and Tarpley 1993). The flippers are small and paddle-shaped, and there is no dorsal fin or dorsal hump. Flukes are pointed at the tips and deeply notched on the rear margin (Haldiman and Tarpley 1993).
The body is basically black with regional white (nonpigmented) areas on or around the chin, eyelids, flipper insertions, ano-genital area, tail stock, and flukes (Haldiman and Tarpley 1993). Areas of intermingled light-gray and white epidermis (speckled appearance) occur on some individuals in various body regions (Haldiman and Tarpley 1993).
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