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The bowhead also has a strongly bowed lower jaw and a narrow upper jaw.

Its baleen is the longest of that of any whale, at 3 m (9.8 ft), and is used to strain tiny prey from the water.

This conclusion was derived from analyzing maternal lineage using mitochondrial DNA.

Whaling and climatic cooling during the Little Ice Age, from the 16th century to the 19th, is supposed to have reduced the whales’ summer habitats, which explains the loss of genetic diversity.

For the next 180 years, the family Balaenidae was the subject of great taxonometric debate.

Authorities have repeatedly recategorized the three populations of right whale plus the bowhead whale, as one, two, three or four species, either in a single genus or in two separate genera.

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They are able to dive and remain submerged underwater for up to an hour.The population was severely reduced before a 1966 moratorium was passed to protect the species.Of the five stocks of bowhead populations, three are listed as "endangered", one as "vulnerable", and one as "lower risk, conservation dependent" according to the IUCN Red List.The bowhead was also known as the Greenland right whale or Arctic whale.

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American whalemen called them the steeple-top, polar whale, The bowhead was an early whaling target.However, the time spent underwater in a single dive is usually limited to 9–18 minutes.The whale has hundreds of overlapping baleen plates consisting of keratin hanging from each side of the upper jaw.Eventually, it was recognized that bowheads and right whales were in fact different, but there was still no strong consensus as to whether they shared a single genus or two. Studies in the 2000s finally provided clear evidence that the three living right whale species do comprise a phylogenetic lineage, distinct from the bowhead, and that the bowhead and the right whales are rightly classified into two separate genera.