species: Unidentified whale in Lizard Island area: all known taxa (Lizard Island Field Guide)
Unidentified whale

©Anne Hoggett: Unidentified whale between Lizard Island and Eagle Island, 27 Dec 2012.

©Anne Hoggett: Enlargement of Unidentified whale between Lizard Island and Eagle Island, 27 Dec 2012.

©Anne Hoggett: Unidentified whale on the East side of Lizard Island on 10 Dec 2022. Photo is taken from behind. This whale was observed to surface at least 15 times over about half an hour, usually three times rapidly, then a ~5-10 min interval before another three. No blow was seen. It was a calm day following coral spawning and it appeared to be swimming along a slick. It is likely the same species as the whale observed on 27 Dec 2012. Its dorsal fin was similar (hooked and set well back) and length was estimated at 6-9 metres.
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Mammalia
Order Cetacea
Family Balaenopteridae
Species Unidentified whale

Distinguishing features

A baleen whale up to about 8 metres long with a hooked dorsal fin.

Sightings of baleen whales are rare in summer in this area, but they do occur. Only two individuals have been photographed to our knowledge (Dec 2022).

Humpback Whales and Dwarf Minke Whales are often seen in winter. This is not either of those species. A possible identification is a small Bryde's Whale, Balaenoptera edeni. That species has a similar dorsal fin, grows to 14 metres, and is found world-wide in water that is warmer than 14 degrees Celsius (Baker, 1983). There are no records of that species on the Great Barrier Reef in Atlas of Living Australia (accessed 12 Dec 2022).


  • Up to 1400 cm (Length)

Depth range

  • Depth range data is not yet available.



Web resources


References that assist with identification

  • Baker, A.N. (1983). Whales and Dolphins of New Zealand and Australia: An identification guide Victoria University Press, Wellington, NZ.