Right Whales

From: Kim Marshall (kimm@oceanalliance.org)
Date: Fri Feb 14 2003 - 15:17:33 EST

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    Question:
    > How big can a right whale get??????
    >
    > Reply:
    Thank you for your question. I work a lot with right whales so your
    question is an easy one for me. I have listed information below but I also
    recommend that you search on WhaleNet for your information. Good luck!

    The whales were given the name ³right whales² by the whalers, who considered
    them the ³right², or correct, whales to kill, because they swim slowly, they
    yield a large amount of valuable blubber and they float to the surface when
    killed. Because of these characteristics, right whales were hunted almost to
    the point of extinction.

    Some calculate that the worldwide population prior to the start of
    commercial whaling was around 300,000 individuals. In spite of having
    worldwide protection at the moment, the population is still low, thought by
    many to number 8000 individuals around the world (7500 in the Southern
    hemisphere and around 500 in the Northern hemisphere). This means that right
    whales have one of the lowest population densities of any whales,
    particularly in the Northern hemisphere.

    Weight: 40 -60 tons
    Length: 45 - 55 feet (females are larger than males)
    Length at birth: 15 feet

    General Characteristics

    - no dorsal fin

    - body uniformly black or dark
       brown, often mottled with
       brown, gray, or blue

    - irregular white patches on belly

    - large, paddle-like flippers

    - strongly arched mouth line

    - rough patches of skin called
      callosities on top of head

    Scientifically known as Eubalaena australis (from the Greek " EU "; true, "
    BALAENA "; whale and from the Latin " AUSTRALIS "; the south), the Southern
    right whale is a mammal that belongs to the Order Cetacea, which includes
    all the whales, dolphins and porpoises, and to the Suborder Mysticeti,
    whales that feed using something called baleen in their mouths.

    This whale is migratory, and it is found exclusively in the Southern
    hemisphere, between 20ºS and 64ºS latitude. During the mating season (autumn
    to spring), several different populations congregate off the coasts of South
    America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Afterwards they move south
    towards their feeding areas, which in the case of the Peninsula Valdés
    population is believed to be in the region of the South Georgia Islands.

    Underneath their skin, the whales have a thick layer of fat called blubber
    that is used like a power plant for storing energy. In the mating areas, the
    whales depend on their blubber reserves, since they spend several months
    without feeding. They have two blowhole openings spaced far apart; when
    exhaling, observers see a typical ³blow² in a " V " shape that can reach up
    to 13 feet in height.

    The right whale has 450 baleen plates, hanging from each side of the upper
    jaw. They are finer and denser than those of other baleen whales, and can
    grow to a length of 8 feet. In order to feed, the right whales swim slowly
    with their mouths open and let water pass through the baleen, filtering out
    their primary food, copepods, zooplankton smaller than krill. Although
    Peninsula Valdés is not primarily a feeding area, every year a few whales
    are observed feeding there.
     

    Kim Marshall
    Executive Director
    Ocean Alliance (Whale Conservation Inst. & the Voyage of the Odyssey)
    191 Weston Road, Lincoln, MA 01773
    781.259.0423 ext. 14 fax 259.0288
    www.oceanalliance.org www.pbs.org/odyssey
    Please support our efforts to conserve whales and their ocean environment
    through research and education :)



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