Second only to the Blue Whale, the Right Whale is one of the largest animals on planet Earth and can grow up to 65 feet long, weighing in at over 90 tons. Their name actually comes from old whaler terminology when they were indicated as the “right” whale to hunt.
Scientific & Common Names
Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Chordata
Class - Mammalia
Order - Artiodactyla
Family - Balaenidae
Genus – Eubalaena
Species – E. glacialis, E. japonica, E. australis
Common Names – North Atlantic Right Whale, North Pacific Right Whale, Southern Right Whale
Despite their massive size, right whales are fairly docile and many whale-watching expeditions venture out to meet them in the colder winter months. The irregular bumps on their head are known as "callosities" and frequently appear white due to whale lice infestation.
During the mating season, right whales can gather in groups of up to 20 males courting a single female whale. Calves are born after a year of gestating, and measure up to 20 feet in length at birth.
Right whales, like other baleen whales, feed on zooplankton and krill which they filter from the water with their baleen plates. Right whales are known to live up to 100 years, but may exceed 200 years or more like their close relative, the Bowhead Whale.
Right whales consist of 3 similar species, all of which inhabit distinct waters. The North Atlantic right whale lives in the north Atlantic Ocean, the North Pacific right whale lives in the eastern North Pacific ocean, and the southern right whale is spread throughout the very southern part of the southern hemisphere. The two northern species are classified as critically endangered with extremely low population numbers, while the southern right whale’s population is thankfully increasing.
Right whales were heavily hunted before whaling of them was banned in 1937. They are currently listed as "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act and "depleted" under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Though whaling has been outlawed, right whales are still vulnerable to ship strikes and entanglement in fishing nets.