Gape of the mouth arched : upper jaw with about six hundred and fifty laminae of whalebone.
B. Mysticetus, Scoresby, Arctic Reg. vol. 1. p. 449. pl. 12. Flem. Brit. An. p. 33. Common Whale, Penn. Brit. Zool. vol. in. p. 50.
Entire length averaging from fifty to sixty-five feet: greatest circumference from thirty to forty feet.
One of the most bulky, but not in general the longest of the Cetaceous tribe. Body thickest in the middle, a little behind the fins, from which point it gradually tapers, in a conical form, towards the tail, and slightly towards the head: this last very large, of a somewhat triangular form; "the under part, the arched outline of which is given by the jawbones, flat, and measuring sixteen to twenty feet in length, and ten to twelve in breadth: the lips, which are five or six feet high, and form the cavity of the mouth, are attached to the under jaw, and rise from the jaw-bones, at an angle of about eighty degrees, having the appearance, when viewed in front, of the letter U: the upper jaw, including the crown-bone or skull, bent down at the extremity, so as to shut the front and upper parts of the cavity of the mouth, and overlapped by the lips in a squamous manner at the sides *:" no teeth; but the palate furnished with two extensive rows of whalebone, generally curved longitudinally, and giving an arched form to the roof of the mouth; each series consists of upwards of three hundred laminae, the interior edges of which are covered with a fringe of hair: eyes remarkably small: pectoral fins situate about two feet beyond the angle of the mouth: tail horizontal, of great breadth, and of a semilunar form; the lateral lobes somewhat pointed, and turned a little backward. Colour black, or blackish gray, with the exception of the fore part of the under jaw and a portion of the belly, which are white.
Appears to have been formerly of not unfrequent occurrence in the British seas, but must be considered in these days as an extremely rare visitant. Sibbald mentions one which came ashore near Peterhead in 1682. A small one is stated to have been taken near Yarmouth, July 8, 1784†. The food of this species is said to consist principally of shrimps and molluscous animals.
† C. and J. Paget's Nat. Hist, of Yarmouth and its Neighbourhood.
(2. BalAeenoptera, Lacep).