Are There Whales In Jamaica?
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Are There Whales In Jamaica? | (Photo: science.org)
by Venesha Johnson | Associate Writer
In 2018, a video surfaced of a killer whale near the shores of Montego Bay, leaving Montegonians in a frenzy. This left many people asking, “Are there whales in Jamaica?”
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To answer that question, whales are hardly ever spotted close to the shores of Jamaica. However, the waters surrounding Jamaica are the natural habitat of 28 different species of mammal, the majority of which are whales and dolphins. So from time to time, there will be a few sightings.
Here are some of the whales you may spot:
- Bryde’s Whale- Balaenoptera brydei: Bryde's Whales have slender, sleek bodies that are typically dark in colour. Most times the upper part of their bodies has a dark grey almost black colour while the bottom has a light grey or white colour. They have a lightly curved top jaw with three distinct ridges. Their flippers are long, thin, and pointed, and they have long ventral throat grooves. They consume squid, small schooling fish, and krill sporadically as food. Because they are gulp feeders they rapidly dive into schools of fish to get their food.
- Fin Whale- Balaenoptera physalus: The second-largest whale in the world is the fin whale. It is huge and sleek, with a dark grey body with a light chevron (a v-shaped light colour marking) behind the head. While the lower left jaw is black, the lower right jaw is white. they eat small schooling fish like herring, capelin, and sand lance as well as krill. They catch prey by charging into groups of it with their mouths wide open.
- Humpback Whale- Megaptera novaeangliae: This baleen whale's massive, strong body is covered in black above and black, white, or speckled below. The bottom of the flippers is typically white and they measure one-third the length of the body. They can be recognized by their flukes, which are easily seen and feature characteristic patterns on the underside. Consuming krill and small schooling fish as food is part of their diet. Attack concentrated prey by lunging through it and gulping it down, occasionally after creating a bubble net around it.
- Minke Whale- Balaenoptera acutorostrata: The body is normally black or dark grey on top, with a grey chevron running behind the head. They are white on the bottom. A white band can be seen across the flippers as well. In addition to squid and zooplankton, they eat a variety of schooling fish, including herring, capelin, and mackerel.
- Sei Whale- Balaenoptera borealis: This whale has a long, sleek body that is dorsally dark grey and underneath is white or cream-coloured. The baleen plates have a thin white inner fringe and are either dark grey or black. It has a single ridge running from the blowhole to the snout along the top of its head. They consume tiny zooplankton, squid, krill, and small fish. It is the only baleen whale that can consume food both through skimming, which involves swimming with the mouth open while sifting food, and gulping, which involves ingesting one mouthful of water and prey at a time. Gulping is employed while feeding on fish or krill, but skimming is utilised when eating on copepods, which are tiny crustaceans that resemble shrimp. They are considered endangered.
- Blainville’s Beaked Whale: These whales have tiny, triangular dorsal fins and powerful bodies. When adult males attain adulthood, the crown of a big tooth erupts from each side of the lower jaw. The head can start as brownish before turning light grey at the lower jaw and upper lip margins. Dark blue-grey dominates the dorsal and lateral surfaces before soon transitioning to light grey ventrally. Their diet consists of mainly fish and squid.
- Cuvier’s Beaked Whale- Ziphius cavirostris: Cuvier’s Beaked whales have a small head and a body shaped like a cigar. These whales have short tapering flippers, a short beak, and a sloping forehead. The body typically has some countershading and a dark grey to reddish brown colour. Male adult grooms a white head that may extend to the neck. The head colouration is less noticeable in females. feed primarily on squid, though they may also consume fish and invertebrates.
- Dwarf Sperm Whale- Kogia simus: From the dorsal fin to the flukes, the body of this small, strong fish gradually narrows. The skull shape alters as people age, becoming more squarish and blunt. Small, triangular dorsal fin. They have a dull white or pinkish belly and are bluish-steel grey. Dwarf Sperm whales feature a faint marking that resembles a fake gill and is formed like a bracket. Their diet consists of fish, crustaceans, and squid (shrimp and crabs).
- False Killer Whale- Pseudorca crassidens: False killer whales are distinguished by their long, straight mouthlines and short, rounded or conical heads. The melon protrudes beyond the lower jaw's tip, particularly in adult males. Except for luminous spots on the throat, chest, and ventral midline, the body is almost dark. The chest is a mixture of grey and practically white, with a big anchor-shaped blaze across the back of the throat. They feed on fish and squid.
Whale watching isn't a hobby in Jamaica because as mentioned before they hardly ever come close to the shore, but don’t let that deter you from your trip, as the Dolphins at Dolphin Cove Jamaica will give you a good show.
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References & Sources For Are There Whales In Jamaica?
- Marine mammals in Jamaican waters - jamentrust.org (no date). Available at: https://www.jamentrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Marine_Mammals_In_Jamaican_Waters_2.pdf (Accessed: November 17, 2022).
- Richardson, J. (2018) Video: Killer whales spotted in Mobay Waters; swimmers warned: Loop Jamaica, Loop News. Loop News. Available at: https://jamaica.loopnews.com/content/video-killer-whales-spotted-mobay-waters-swimmers-warned (Accessed: November 17, 2022).
Are There Whales In Jamaica? | Written: November 17, 2022
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