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This species has a very rotund physical appearance with a large curved upper jaw, no dorsal fin and broad tail fluke. Diagnostic yellow rough clumps of skin occur around the head called callosities which can be used to identify individuals. They are black overall but sometimes have patches of white on their underside. Their baleen is extremely elongated and black in colour.
Blows are “v” shaped and reach 5 m. Breaching occasionally occurs while tail fluking is frequent during deep dives. Feeding takes place using a characteristic skimming technique.
The absence of any reliable visual observations or strandings in almost 50 years suggests this species no longer occur in Irish waters. Most of what is known about this species in Irish waters comes from landings at whaling operations based in Co. Mayo in the early 20th century.