The Right Whale named METOMPKIN:
Her Story of Survival

Right Whale
( Eubalaena glacialis)

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Chapter 3

Right whales are extraordinary looking! They are 40 - 50 feet long, and very different from other types of whales. Their genus name, Eubalaena, "true whale" (Greek eu, good + Latin balaena, whale) means that this was the whale most familiar to people at the time it was named. It was one of the first species chased by early hunters because it often came close to shore, swam slowly enough to be approached by sailboats or rowboats, and usually floated when killed. This was because of their thick layer of blubber, or fat, which boiled down to many barrels of oil. They were also popular prey because of their long pieces of baleen, which had many uses before plastic was invented like combs, buttons, skirt hoops, etc. So the "true whale" or "good whale" also came to be known as the "right" whale to catch.


At a distance, the first clue to a right whale's identity is the low bushy spout. The V-shaped blow, caused by the two blowholes being so far apart, can be seen from behind or in front. Right whales usually breathe from 5 to 10 times before diving for 5 to 20 minutes. Often they lift their tails, or flukes, when diving. The flukes are very large, and all black. The right whales' unusual appearance can be seen when we have the opportunity to look at them closely. There is no dorsal fin, and the wide fat back almost looks like a huge hippopotamus!

The huge head is covered with rough light-colored areas called "callosities" on the snout, around the blowholes, above the eyes, and along the lower jaws. The creamy or orange-pink color of the callosities is caused by several species of whale lice that live there. We call these callosities "bonnets" because they appear in so many of the places on the head where human hair would be. The shape of the bonnets vary among different right whales and can be used for individual identification. When you are studying wild animals it is very important to be able to tell one from another. That's how we count for population numbers, understand migration patterns, study birth rates, and individual behaviors. Photographs of right whale heads have been used to identify individuals for more than 20 years!

Chapter 4

The Gulf of Maine is used by right whales for feeding and courtship. More than any other whale in our area, this species feeds on small planktonic crustaceans, especially the copepods and tiny shrimp called krill. Copepod Krill The larvae of barnacles are also important foods at times. Right whales strain food from the water continuously while slowly swimming open-mouthed through thick patches of plankton. Feeding like this is called "skimming." A whale weighing 35 - 50 tons (to 100,000 pounds) or more can live on tiny copepods because it has a large filtering system. After all, it takes about 4,000 copepods to fill a teaspoon.

Right Whale FeedingKrill
The right whale's huge mouth holds up to 390 plates of finely fringed, dark gray baleen on each side. The baleen increases in length to about 7 feet long! Try to imagine how many of these tiny animals it takes to fill a stomach that holds 2,000 pounds of krill!

Question - [Is it possible that the rope entanglement is hurting # 1707's ability to feed?]

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