How Long is the Average Lifespan of a Whale?

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Although scientific studies have calculated the average lifespan of a whale to range between 40-70 years for non-endangered, healthy whales, the overall lifespan of a whale varies significantly depending on the whale species, its environment, habitat, and lifestyle. For instance

Because some whale species are harder to research than others, it can be difficult to conclude the actual average lifespan of a whale, but there is enough data and evidence to get a good idea of how long whales actually do live. This post will explore all factors affecting the lifespan of a whale and even go into detail about the longest-living whale – and animal – on the planet!

Factors Affecting Lifespan of a Whale


While there are a number of different factors that affect the lifespan of a whale, one of the most significant factors that will determine life expectancy is its species.

  • The Beluga whale has an average lifespan of 40 – 60 years
  • The Blue whale has an average lifespan of 70 – 90 years
  • The Killer whale has an average lifespan of 30 – 60 years
  • The Bowhead whale has an average lifespan of 100 – 200 years
  • The Fin whale has an average lifespan of 60 – 100 years
  • The Gray whale has an average lifespan of 50 – 70 years
  • The Humpback whale has an average lifespan of 40 – 100 years
  • The Minke whale has an average lifespan of 30 – 50 years
  • The Narwhal whale has an average lifespan of 40 – 60 years
  • The Sperm whale has an average lifespan of 60 – 80 years

As you can see, each whale species life expectancy has fluctuates between 20, 40, or 100 years depending on the species. Continue reading to find out what other factors can affect a whale’s lifespan.


Whales that live in captivity are known to live dramatically shorter lifespans. This is historically true for the killer whale and beluga whale, both known to be held captive by Sea World prior to 2014. Killer whales held in captivity typically do not live past their 20s, whereas killer whales in the ocean, on average live between 30 to 50 years old depending on gender.


Level of endangerment will also have an impact on whale life expectancy. Whales that are endangered have a harder time finding social groups to mate and interact with making it difficult to reproduce. The of lack of social interaction and the difficulty finding partners to bare offspring with creates a great deal of stress for whales, which greatly impacts life expectancy.

Geographic Location

Any whale species that lives, mates, or feeds closer to a commercial area such as a popular dock or beach is at a greater risk for danger. Whales in these areas are more at risk to be struck by a ship or boat, deal with pollution, and be separated from family and friends.

Which Whale Lives the Longest?

One hundred years old may be old for a human, but it’s nothing to a Bowhead whale. The longest-living whale known to man is the Bowhead whale, a species whose average lifespan ranges from 100 to over 200 years. What allows Bowhead whales to live for over two centuries is their low body temperature and environment – the lower a mammal’s body temperature, the longer it can live. Bowhead whales are very slow moving and slow growing mammals that live in icy, Arctic waters that are plentiful with food.

Currently, the maximum lifespan for bowheads is unknown, but many sources of evidence suggest bowheads being able to live for at least up to 150 years and probably over 200 years. One piece of evidence was seen in a bowhead whale killed in 2007 off the coast of Alaska. It was found to have carried a harpoon fragment in its neck blubber that experts were able to date back to a New England factory active around 1880. This means the Bowhead whales was at least 127 years old!

Fascinated by Whales?

We are too. Join Harbor Breeze for a memorable whale watching experience in Long Beach, Los Angeles. Aboard every single ship is a naturalist who will educate and enlighten you on whales and other ocean life we see. Contact us today for Long Beach whale watching and Los Angeles whale watching ticket information and book a cruise the entire family will love.

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