This list details the ten largest whales currently living in the Earth’s oceans. These whales have different habits, appearances, and habitats but are all worthy of study and appreciation. 

Minke Whale 

Length: 35 feet (10.5 meters)

Interesting fact: Smallest of the ‘great whales’

humpback whale compared to minke whale
Humpback whale (above) size compared to minke whale (below)

The smallest whale on this list but by no means a small mammal. These whales can grow up to around 35 feet or 10.5 meters and are usually dark in color, grey to black; some even have a purple tint. They can weigh up to 20,000 pounds. They are a type of carnivorous baleen whale.

They live for around 40 to 50 years on average and live in two major groups. There are the Northern minke whales and the Antarctic minke whales. They are abundant in their various habitats but are at threat from fishing, climate change, vessel strikes, and more. 

Byrde’s Whale 

Length: 46 feet (14 meters)
Interesting fact: Can dive up to 1,000 metres, holding breath for 5-15 minutes

bryde's whale

Credit: Jolene Bertoldi

Byrde’s whale is another type of baleen whale. It is commonly found in warm waters around the world.  The largest version of the whale has been measured at a maximum of forty-six feet. Byrde’s whales have two blowholes and no teeth. Instead, these whales have rows of baleen plates in their mouths. They have many visual similarities to the sei whale described above. 

Gray Whale 

Length: 49 feet (15 meters)

Interesting fact: Mostly bottom feeders

Gray whale surfacing
The Gray whale can sometimes measure up to 15 metres long

Credit: José Eugenio Gómez Rodríguez

The gray whale is sometimes known as a “devil fish” due to its fighting behaviors. They can weigh around 40 tons. They lived around the waters of California and were previously in the North Atlantic before they were eliminated in that area. They are recognizable due to common white scars caused by parasites on their bodies. Otherwise, they are slate-gray in color with distinguishable by different dorsal surfaces. They have two blowholes on the top of their head, creating a heart-shaped blow. These whales live between 55 and 70 years; the oldest whale known to science was estimated at 80 years of age. 

Sei Whale 

Length: 52 feet (16 meters)

Interesting fact: Very fast, with speeds up to 50 mph

Sei whale
The Sei Whale can exceed 16 metres in length

The sei whale is a baleen whale that lives in subtropical, temperate, and subpolar waters around the world. Their names come from the Norwegian word for “pollock,” “seje.” Their populations have decreased during the 19th and 20th centuries due primarily to hunting. It’s believed, according to NOAA, that 300,000 whales were killed during this period. They can weigh in at 28 tons and is only slightly distinguishable from the Bryde’s whale due to their arching rostrum. 

Humpback Whale 

Length: 52 feet (16 meters)

Interesting fact: Can swim up to 5,000 miles to migrate for food and breeding

C
Humpback whales are incredibly heavy, and are around 16 metres in length

Credit: Whit Welles

The humpback whale, or Megaptera novaeangliae, is a species of baleen whale. It is known for its distinctive body shape and its grace in the water. The Southern Hemisphere whales are noted for their lighter bodies and undersides when contrasted with the whales of the North Pacific and North Atlantic.

They have an obvious hump, from which they get their name, and a black dorsal coloring, making it easier to compare a humpback whale to a blue whale.

The largest humpback whale on record was a female weighing in at 99 short tons. But, most whales are between 28-33 short tons. They are, like other whales, filter feeders. They eat small fish and krill. 

Right Whale 

Length: 60 feet (18.3 meters)

Interesting fact: Can live up to 70 years old

Right whale and calf
Right whales can exceed 18 metres in length

The right whale is one of the world’s most endangered whales. According to NOAA, there are around 400 individuals remaining in the world’s oceans. They are distinguished by rough patches of skin on their heads which are a result of whale lice. They are heavy whales, weighing around 100 short tons, with the largest known specimen reaching 298,000 pounds. They stay close to peninsulas where there is more food and avoid open waters. They feed on krill but mainly eat copepods. 

Sperm Whale 

Length: 67 feet (20.5 meters)

Interesting fact: Have the largest brain of any creature to have lived on Earth

sperm whale and calf
Sperm whales can live to 70+ years and be 65+ feet in length

Credit: Gabriel Barathieu

The sperm whale is another very large species of whale. It can grow to around 67 feet and live to 70 years of age and longer. This species is the third deepest diving mammal in the world and has the largest brain of any animal. The name comes from the oil spermaceti, that’s a target of whalers. Sperm whaling was a major industry in the 19th century and featured in the famed novel of the time, Moby Dick. The whales are currently listed as vulnerable by the IUCN. 

Bowhead Whale 

Length: 59 feet (18 meters)

Interesting fact: Can live to 200+ years old

Bowhead whale is the third-largest whale, by length
Bowhead whales nearly reach 20 meters in length at adulthood

Credit: Bering Land Bridge National Preserve

The bowhead whale is one of the largest whale species in the world. It is an arctic species that is usually associated with related environments. They are capable of breaking through ice that’s seven inches thick with their large and powerful skulls. They are entirely black, except for a white section on the lower part of their jaw. They can weigh between 75 and 100 tons. They are also filter feeders, meaning that they strain plankton from the surface of the water or the seafloor. They can live to be over 200 years old. 

Fin Whale 

Length: 90 feet (27.5 meters)

Interesting fact: Throat is like an accordion, to help eat more than over a ton of food a day

Fin whale is the second largest whale in the world
The Fin whale is the second largest whale in the world

The fin whale is the second largest whale in the Earth’s oceans. It can reach 90 feet, only slightly smaller than the blue whale. It can be found around the world and lives for around 80-90 years. The whale also weighs up to 80 tons. They are at risk from ocean noise, vessel strikes, overfishing, and more. They were hunted throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. NOAA estimates that around 725,000 fin whales were killed in the Southern Hemisphere during this period. They are no longer at threat from whaling due to the end of commercial whaling in the 1970s and 1980s. 

Blue Whale 

Length: 98 feet (30 meters) 

Interesting fact: Have the largest heart in the entire animal kingdom

Blue whale is the largest whale on Earth
The Blue whale is the largest whale and creature alive on Earth

The blue whale is part of the baleen whale parvorder Mysticeti, also known as whalebone whales. It is famed as the largest creature ever to live on planet Earth. They are large, slender whales that have grey-blue in color. Their bodies are often mottled, with different patterns appearing on individuals. Their heads are large, broad, and flat with a “U” shape when seen from above. The female whales are more significant than the males, with the largest ever weight of one of these incredible creatures coming in at 196 long tons, as much as 33 elephants. 

FAQs 

What are the three largest whales in the world?

The three largest whale species in the world are the blue whale, fin whale, and sperm whale. The blue whale reaches 98 feet, the fin whale: 90 feet, and the sperm whale: 67 feet in length. 

What is the largest whale on record?

The blue whale is the largest creature to ever have lived on Earth. They are larger than any other prehistoric whales and any dinosaur. 

How big is Megalodon compared to a blue whale?

Megalodons reached a maximum of 58 feet compared to the blue whale, which can grow to 90 or even 100 feet in length. 

What is the largest toothed whale?

The sperm whale is the largest toothed whale. They can grow to 67 feet (20.5 meters) and weight of around 41,000 kg.