Mammals are known to utilize wax esters with an efficiency of less than 50%. The purpose of the present study was to examine whether or not minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), which at times may eat considerable amounts of wax-ester-rich krill, represent an exception to this general pattern. Samples of fresh undigested forestomach, as well as colon, contents were obtained from minke whales (n 5) that had been feeding on krill (Thysanoessa inermis) for some time. The samples were analysed for dry mass, energy density, lipid content and the major lipid classes, including wax esters. The concentrations of wax esters were compared with previous estimates of dry-matter disappearance of the same type of prey using an in vitro technique, to calculate the dry-matter digestibility of wax esters (DMDwax). Wax esters contributed 21% of the energy and 47% of total lipids in the krill diet. The energy density of gut contents decreased by 50% after their passage from forestomach to the end of the colon. The DMDwax was 94·1 (SD 2·8)% (n 5). This high DMDwax and the occurrence of fatty alcohols, one of the products of wax-ester hydrolysis, in faeces show that minke whales are very efficient digesters of wax esters and absorb most of the energy-rich products of this process.