This is a Bryde's whale. It's sleek, streamlined, and oh-so beautiful to behold in the water.
This is a Bryde's whale, most likely Balaenoptera edeni,
though the taxonomy of Bryde's whales is uncertain.
Given that whales are large (say roughly 12 metres give-or-take for this one), you might think that I could state with reasonable certainty that this whale is such-and-such species.
Well...in the course of reading up on Bryde's whales, I've once again been reminded of how little we actually know.
There is considerable uncertainty relating to the classification of Bryde's whales, with several possible species and/ or sub-species of cetaceans currently lumped together and known as Bryde's whales. The taxonomy of the Bryde's whale group is "confusing", as several of my cetacean researcher friends have pointed out.
With the help of such friends, I've come to the conclusion that this whale is most likely a Balaenoptera edeni. (The others I looked into were Balaenoptera brydei and Balaenoptera omurai.)
This chance meeting in Sri Lanka with a Bryde's whale was only my second such encounter, the first time being in Ogasawara in late 2009 (Bryde's whale in Ogasawara).
I was much closer to the whale this time. I'm guessing that the animal was feeding, as it dived and surfaced near us on-and-off for over an hour. The whale eventually came close enough for us to slip in and take a look...leaving me with that familiar "wooooowwww" feeling.
Note: Photograph taken under permit.