Credit: NOAA

Which Whale Lives The Longest

The whale species is known for its longevity. Many species of whales have individuals that live for numerous decades, and some can even survive for centuries. Depending on the specific species of whale, their known predators and the facts of their biology, typical life cycles can be different, and some whales will make it to live for more than 100 years, while others, usually members of smaller species, may only live for up to 30-35 years.

Most whales, such as the humpback whale, short-finned pilot whale and the beluga whale can live for up to 35-50 years. Ages of over 50 are also common when it comes to larger whales, the best examples of this being the North Pacific right whale and the sperm whale, both of which are estimated to live for up to 70 years. The largest whale in the world, the blue whale, is also one of the longest living mammals at 80-110. However, not even blue whales live as long as the most impressive and oldest animals in the sea: bowhead whales. These impressive baleen whales, also known as Greenland right whales or Arctic whales, are typically about the size of a gray whale, and their lifespan can reach up to 200 years in length.

Today, bowhead whales are known as the longest living whale species. However, the interest for measuring whale lifespans was not as big in the past. In 2007, a bowhead whale was caught off the coast of Alaska with the head of an exploding harpoon attached to its skin. This find was made even more impressive by the fact that the harpoon it belonged to dates back to models used in the 1880s. This means the whale in question was at least 120-130 years old at the time of capture. Fascinated by the incident, scientists began to dig deeper in order to find out the true age of the longest living whales in existence.

Bowhead whales are known as the longest living species of whale in the world, and are also counted among the top ten longest living animals, alongside species like the long finned eel, the African elephant and the Galapagos giant tortoise. Upon measuring the age of some of the older bowhead whales ever discovered, scientists found age estimations varied somewhere between 135 and 175 years. A particular specimen was even found to exceed two centuries, living to the age of 211. Researchers still don’t know why these particular whales have a lifespan twice as large as most other whales, but they believe the key is in the bowhead whale’s DNA.

Blane Perun

Diver - Photographer - Traveler

Whale in Ocean