Right Whale Species: North Atlantic, North Pacific, Pygmy and Southern Ones

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southern right whale
There are three right whale species: 1) North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis); 2) North Pacific right whale (Eubalaena japonica); and 3) southern right whale (Eubalaena australis). They can reach up to 18 meters in length and over 100 tons at maturity. Their heads are huge, nearly one third of their total length. The dorsal fin is often either lacking or greatly reduced. Flippers are short and rounded. The throats of balaenids are smooth, lacking the furrows or grooves of some other mysticetes. [Source: Phil Myers, Animal Diversity Web (ADW) /=]

The North Atlantic right whale lives in the North Atlantic Ocean. The North Pacific right whale is found in the Pacific Ocean, and the southern right whale, which is found in the southern hemisphere. These whales are baleen whales, feeding on shrimp-like krill and small fish by straining huge volumes of ocean water through their baleen plates that act like a sieve.

Right whales and bowhead whale are members of the Balaenidae family of whales. They are different from the other three baleen whale families: Balaenopteridae (rorquals), which include blue, fin, sei, humpback and minke whales and Eschrichtiidae ( gray whales). There is a separate baleen family for Cetotheriidae (the pygmy right whale).

Right whales have occurred historically in all the world's oceans from temperate to subpolar latitudes. The three species of right whale — North Atlantic, North Pacific and the Southern — evolved from a single species about 6 million years ago. North Atlantic and North Pacific are seriously endangered. The Southern is better off. The pygmy right whale is found in waters off New Zealand.

Right whales were previously considered a single species. Strong mitochondrial and nuclear genetic evidence, however, suggests they are three species. North right whales and southern right whales have been considered distinct species for some time. North Pacific populations are isolated from North Atlantic populations and are genetically distinct. Research on genetic variation in right whales in the late 1990s and early 2000s, revealed that Pacific populations of what had been considered North Atlantic right whales were in fact a distinct species more closely related to southern right whales. =\

Websites and Resources: Animal Diversity Web (ADW) animaldiversity.org; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) noaa.gov; Fishbase fishbase.se; Encyclopedia of Life eol.org; Smithsonian Oceans Portal ocean.si.edu/ocean-life-ecosystems ; Monterey Bay Aquarium montereybayaquarium.org ; MarineBio marinebio.org/oceans/creatures

North Atlantic Right Whale

North Atlantic right whales (Scientific name: Eubalaena glacialis) live off the Atlantic coast of the United States and Canada. They make up one of the world’s most endangered large whale species. But it wasn't always that way. Pilgrims who arrived in North America in 1620 wrote: "Cape Cod was like to be a place of good fishing; for we saw daily great whales, of the best kind for oil and bone, come close aboard our ship, and, in fair weather, swim and play about with us." They are most likely referring here to North Atlantic right whales.

North Atlantic right whales are generally docile and appear to be playful creatures, breaching out of the water, and slapping the surface with their large fins. Some observers even suggest that they stick their tails up out of the water so that their large tail flukes catch a breeze, allowing them to sail. [Source: Jonathan Crane and Rebecca Scott, Animal Diversity Web (ADW) /=]

Right whales can probably live at least 70 years, but there are few data on their average lifespan. Ear wax can be used to estimate age in right whales after they have died. Another way to determine life span is to look at groups of closely related species. There are indications that some species closely related to right whales may live more than 100 years. A picture was taken of a female and her calf in 1935 in Florida. The animal was seen in 1959 off Cape Cod and irregularly until the summer of 1995. Assuming it was her first calf in the original picture and she was at the age of sexual maturity or eight years old, she would have been 67 years old when last seen. [Source: NOAA /=]

North Atlantic right whale

North Atlantic right whales primarily occur in Atlantic coastal waters or close to the continental shelf, although movements over deep waters are known. Most known right whale nursery areas are in shallow, coastal waters. North Atlantic right whale are found from about 30 to 75 degrees north latitude. They are distributed from Iceland to the Gulf of Mexico, with largest concentrations occurring between Nova Scotia, Canada, and Florida. Winter calving grounds occur off the coasts of Florida and Georgia. Their main foraging area is off the coast of New England. Their main calving area is off the southeast U.S. coast from Cape Fear, North Carolina, to below Cape Canaveral, Florida [Source: NOAA /=]

North Atlantic right whales have been labeled as critically endangered. The whaling industry is no longer a threat to them and they have been a protected species since 1972. Yet, their population continues to decline. As of 2018, researchers estimate that there are only about 400 North Atlantic right whales remaining, and fewer than 100 breeding females. Birth rates have also slowed dramatically in recent years. The main dangers these whales face are being hit by vessels and becoming entangled in fishing gear. Human-made ocean noise may also interfere with normal right whale behavior, which can affect communication. [Source: NOAA]

North Atlantic Right Whale Characteristics

North Atlantic right whales reach lengths of 16 meters (52 feet) and range in weight from 55,000 to 63,000 kilograms (55 to 63 tonnes, 60 to 70 US tons, 120,000 to 140,00 pounds). Females are larger than males. Compared to other baleen whale, right whales are very large in girth relative to their length giving them a rotund appearance. [Source: Jonathan Crane and Rebecca Scott, Animal Diversity Web (ADW) /=\, NOAA]

North Atlantic right whales have a stocky black body, with no dorsal fin. Their tail is broad, deeply notched, and all black with a smooth trailing edge. The stomach and chest may be all black or have irregular-shaped white patches. Pectoral flippers are relatively short, broad, and paddle-shaped. [Source: NOAA]

Their characteristic feature is raised patches of rough skin, called callosities, on their heads that appear white because of whale lice (cyamids). Each right whale has a unique pattern of these callosities. Scientists are able to use these patterns to identify individual whales, an invaluable tool to understand population size and health. Aerial and ship-based surveys help track populations over the years using a right whale’s unique pattern of callosities and a photo-identification database maintained by our partners at the New England Aquarium. [Source: NOAA]

North Atlantic right whales is typically uniformly dark in color except for scars, belly patches, and callosities, most of which are light. Their jaws are greatly arched in order to fit the exceptionally long baleen. Baleens can reach a maximum length of five meters with an average of 300 plates on either side. The head is enormous, close to one-third the body length. The blowholes are well partitioned on the exterior surface, resulting in a vertical V-shaped blow that may be up to 5 meters high. The largest amount of blubber found on whales is found on right whales. The average thickness is 50 centimeters (20 inches) and can be as thick as 66 centimeters (28 inche)s. Blubber comprises 36 percent to 45 percent of the total body weight. All seven cervical vertebrae are fused into one osseous unit. /=\

North Atlantic Right Whale Feeding

North right whales tend to skim near the surface of the water feeding on small copepods and krill. The whales swim along the surface, or just below, with their mouth open, skimming the zooplankton from the water. The water passes through a series of large baleen plates which filter out the food. These right whales tend not to feed until they find large concentrations of food. When they find these concentrations, they swim through the mass, making accurate adjustments to their course in order to maximize their intake. [Source: Jonathan Crane and Rebecca Scott, Animal Diversity Web (ADW) /=]

range of the right whale species: 1) North Atlantic right whales in green; 2) North Pacific Atlantic right whales in blue; and 3) ) Southern right whales in gold

After observing right whales in the Bay of Fundy off Maine and New Brunswick surface with mud allover their crowns, scientists surmised they dived to a depth of about 200 meters, brushed the heads on the sea floor, sometimes swimming upside down. It is believed the whales positioned themselves where tidal surges were strong and opened their cavernous mouths, letting the currents push water-borne food into their mouths.

The four critical habitats for North Atlantic right whales, each associated with a kind of food, are 1) the Browns-Baccaro Bank, 2) Bay of Fundy, 3) Great South Channel, and 4) the Cape Cod Bay, each of which has high densities of copepods. The first three have deep basins, at least 150 meters (490 feet) deep, flanked by relatively shallow water. Copepods are concentrated here because of convergences and upwellings driven by tidal currents. These conditions also occurs in the Cape Cod Bay even though it is not a deep basin. [Source: Jonathan Crane and Rebecca Scott, Animal Diversity Web (ADW) /=]

North Atlantic Right Whale Migration

North Atlantic right whales migrate along North America’s East Coast between their calving areas off northern Florida and southern Georgia and their feeding areas in the Gulf of Maine off of New England and Nova Scotia. They spend the winter in warmer waters such as those found off Cape Hatteras, South Carolina, Georgia, and northeastern Florida. They migrate to cooler waters in late summer and early fall. It is rare to see a whale off the coast of Cape Cod from June to October because they have all headed north by then. [Source: Jonathan Crane and Rebecca Scott, Animal Diversity Web (ADW) /=]

The 2,000-kilometer (1,200-mile) migration route of North Atlantic right whales takes them through some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. Expectant mothers make the journey between New England and Florida while pregnant, give birth and spend the winters off Florida and Georgia — the only known calving area for the species. NOAA Fisheries has designated two critical habitat areas here determined to provide important feeding, nursery, and calving habitat for North Atlantic right whales: [Source: NOAA]

In recent years listening devices have picked up sounds from right whales off the southern tip of Greenland. Scientists wonder whether these might be members of the New England group. It could possibly be a remnant of an eastern North Atlantic group thought to have been hunted out of existence centuries ago.

Right whales move from subpolar regions with the onset of winter, staying near land masses as they head south. Some good areas to see them are from Cape Cod north to the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia and Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick. Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary in Massachusetts is a seasonal feeding area for right whales, as well as humpback, fin, sei, and minke whales. The sanctuary is a popular whale watching destination and important conservation site for these animals.

North Atlantic Right Whale Mating, Reproduction and Offspring

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North right whale with calf
North Atlantic right whales are viviparous, meaning they give birth to live young that developed in the body of the mother, and engage in internal reproduction in which sperm from the male fertilizes the egg within the female. They engage in seasonal breeding, mating in the winter. The average gestation period is 12 months. Females give birth in the spring to a single young. Females give birth to up to one calf every three to four years. [Source: Jonathan Crane and Rebecca Scott, Animal Diversity Web (ADW) /=]

Females and males reach sexual maturity at five to 10 years. Males are sexually mature at a length of 15 meters and females at 15.5 meters, these sizes may be reached between five and 10 years of age. From 1987 through 1992, there were only 51 known actively reproducing females. During that same timeframe, females gave birth around every four years (three years is considered a normal or healthy interval between right whale calving events). [Source: NOAA]

North Atlantic right whales mate from December to March, when most of the young are born. Calves are about 4.3 meters (14 feet) at birth. Young are precocial. This means they are relatively well-developed when born. Pre-fertilization, pre-birth and pre-weaning provisioning and protecting are done by females.

North Pacific Right Whales

North Pacific right whales (scientific name: Eubalaena japonica) are the rarest of all large whale species and among the rarest of all marine mammal species. There are an estimated 100 to 600 North Pacific right whales (2008) down from around 10,000 in the 1600s. North Pacific right whales were formerly abundant throughout this range, but they are now rare and primarily observed in the Okhotsk Sea, southeastern Bering Sea, and occasionally along coastal Japan. Commercial whaling greatly reduced right whale populations in the Pacific ocean. North Pacific right whales were harpooned illegally as late as the 1960s by Soviet whalers. [Source: NOAA, Ariana Grasgreen, Animal Diversity Web (ADW) /=]

North Pacific right whales are found in temperate and sub-arctic waters in the Pacific Ocean between 20 and 60 degrees latitude. Occurring primarily in coastal or shelf waters, though they have also been sighted in deep waters, they range from Japan and Russia in the west to Alaska and the west coast of North America in the east. Contemporary sightings of right whales in the Pacific Ocean have mostly occurred in the central North Pacific and Bering Sea. Sightings have been reported as far south as central Baja California in the eastern North Pacific, as far south as Hawaii in the central North Pacific, and as far north as the sub-Arctic waters of the Bering Sea and sea of Okhotsk in the summer. Since 1996, right whales have been observed repeatedly in their Critical Habitat in the southeastern Bering Sea during the summer months.

Migration patterns of the North Pacific right whale are unknown, although it is thought the whales spend the summer in far northern feeding grounds and migrate south to warmer waters, such as southern California, during the winter. From 1965 to 1999, years during which the U.S.S.R. harvested North Pacific right whales illegally, there were only 82 sightings of right whales in the entire eastern North Pacific, with the majority of those occurring in the Bering Sea and nearby areas of the Aleutian Islands. Calving grounds have not been found in the eastern North Pacific. Worldwide, most known right whale nursery areas are in shallow, coastal waters.

In summer, north Pacific right whales have been sighted n the Sea of Okhotsk, Bering Sea, around the Aleutian Island chain, and in the Gulf of Alaska. In winter mainly in the past, they were sighted in the Sea of Japan, Taiwan Straits, and Ogasawara Islands in the western Pacific and south to coastal Baja California in the eastern Pacific. They have also been seen occasionally in the Hawaiian Islands. Populations in the eastern and western Pacific are considered discrete populations.

North Pacific Right Whale Characteristics and Behavior

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North Pacific right whale
North Pacific right whales range in length from 13.7 to 17 meters (45 to 56 feet), with their average length being 15 meters (49 feet). They range in weight from 63,500 to 90,700 kilograms (63.6 to 90.1 tonnes, 70 to 100 US tons). Females are larger than males. North Pacific right whales were, until recently, considered the same species as north Atlantic right whales. The species were separated because of genetic evidence. [Source: Ariana Grasgreen, Animal Diversity Web (ADW) /=]

Like other right whales, North Pacific right whales have a stocky black body, although some individuals have white patches on their undersides. They have no dorsal fin, a large head that is about a quarter of their body length, and raised patches of rough skin, called callosities, on the head, over its eyes, behind the blowhole, and around the mouth. The tail is broad, deeply notched, and all black with a smooth trailing edge.[Source: NOAA]

North Pacific right whales baleen plates are brownish-gray and range in number from 200 to 270 on each side of the mouth, and can reach three meters in length. North Pacific right whales may be confused with bowhead whales, but are distinguishable by the presence of callosities on their body and white patches on their undersides. They are closely related to southern right whales, though north Pacific right whales have larger and wider flippers than their southern counterparts. /=\

North Pacific right whales migrate between summer and wintering grounds. Other than that little is known about their behavior, in large part because of their extreme rarity. They have been observed singly and in small groups. North Pacific right whales vocalizations include both complex and simple, low-frequency sounds. According to Animal Diversity Web: The low-frequency sounds have been described as "belch-like." Other sounds include moans, grunts, sighs, and bellows. In a study of north Pacific right whale vocalization in the Bering Sea, over 80 percent of vocalizations were "up-calls," calls that were frequency modulated and ended on a higher frequency. These calls were from 90 to 150 Hz and about 0.7 seconds in duration. The remainder of calls were either "down-up calls," with a downward frequency change before becoming an up call (5 percent) or constant frequency moans. North Pacific right whale calls are generally less than 250 Hz and occur at irregular intervals of over 10 seconds apart.

North Pacific Right Whale Feeding and Reproduction

Northern Pacific right whales feed mainly at the surface on concentrations of zooplanktonic crustaceans such as krill, calanoid copepods, and larval barnacles. Specifically, they are known to eat copepods such as Neocalanus plumchrus, Calanus finmarchius, and Calanus cristatus, along with north Pacific krill. Their mating systems have not been described but it is likely that mating is similar to that of the other two right whale species southern right whales and north Atlantic right whales.

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Southern right whale
The sex organs of male North Pacific right whales are huge. One was reported to have a testis two meters in length, 78 centimeters in diameter, and 525 kilograms in mass. Males have a darkly pigmented, long, slender, retractile penis that can reach 2.2 to 2.7 meters in length.

North Pacific right whales measure up to six meters in length when they are born, and they grow quickly for their first few years, reaching lengths up to 12 meters by 18 months of age. The milk of mother north Pacific right whales is high in protein and is lipid-rich. The length of lactation is unknown but has been estimated to last six or seven months. Although the duration is unknown for right whales, weaning is usually gradual and prolonged in ceteceans. A 1-year-old north Pacific right whale was found with a large amount of milk in its stomach, and another individual 11.3 meters in length appeared fully weaned. Males reach sexual maturity when they reach 15.2 meters in length and females at 15.8 meters, which is about 10 years in age.

Southern Right Whales

Southern right whales (Scientific name:Eubalaena australis) are found throughout the Southern hemisphere. Native to the southern Atlantic Ocean, southern Pacific Ocean, southern Indian Ocean and the Southern Sea, they have a circumpolar distribution between 30 and 50 degrees south, .inhabiting sub-Antarctic waters but avoiding warm equatorial regions. Southern right whales have lifespans of at least 50 years. They may live past 70.

Southern right whales are more closely related to North Pacific right whales than either of them are to North Atlantic right whales. Southern right whales feed in the plankton-rich waters around the Antarctic and migrate to wintering areas near Argentina, southern Africa, western and southern Australia and sub-Antarctic New Zealand, where they are typically found in coastal areas near continents and island masses.

Southern right whales have recovered to about 8 percent of their original population since becoming a protected species worldwide. There are an estimated 10,000 Southern Atlantic right whales (2008) down from around 55,000 to 75,000 in the 1600s. Their population is increasing at a rate of about 7 percent a year, that is close to the maximum possible for a species with a one year gestation period. Not only are they reproducing these whales are strong and healthy and show few of the signs of wear and tear that their northern cousins do.

Southern right whales feed on plankton, pelagic larval crustaceans, krill and copepods. They are most often observed using one of two feeding techniques: 1) surface feeding, when the whales swim through densely-populated plankton slicks with their mouths wide open and baleen exposed; and 2) doing the same submerged, presumably in highly dense populations of plankton. [Source: Julia Smith, Animal Diversity Web (ADW) /=]

Southern Right Whale Characteristics

southern right whale

Southern right whales range in length from 16 to 18 meters (52.49 to 59.06 feet) and weigh between 36 and 73 tonnes (40 to 80 US tons, 36,000 to 73,000 kilograms, with their average weight being 49 tonnes (49,000 kilograms 54 US tons). Females are a little larger than males. [Source: Julia Smith, Animal Diversity Web (ADW) /=]

Southern right whales have a rotund body, with a very large girth relative to the length and an enormous head that approximately one third of the body length). Like other righ whales, southern right whales do not have any dorsal fins, nor do they have the grooved throat that is typical of the balaenopterids. The flippers are also broad and relatively short. /=\

According to Animal Diversity Web: Southern right whales are characterized by their uniformly dark color and white callosities found on and around the head. Callosities, which are outgrowths of tough skin, are often used in identifying individual whales, as they are unique to each animal, similar to fingerprints in humans. The largest of these excrescences (callosities) is located on the anterior-most portion of the head and is referred to as the "bonnet." Other excrescences are on the upper edge of the lower jaw, behind the blowhole, and above the eye. /=\

Another distinguishing physical feature of southern right whales is the blowhole. The exterior of the blow hole is well-partitioned, resulting in a V-shaped exhaust of condensation and water vapor. Furthermore, uncharacteristic of balaenopterids, southern right whales have a well-developed dermis without fat, whereas most balaenopterids lack a dermis. Southern right whales apparently have the highest degree of kidney lobulation noted in mammals. It was determined that a kidney weighing 32.4 kilograms from a 11.7-meter long female had 5,377 reniculi, many of which were fused. When compared to other cetaceans, southern right whales have at least five times the amount of kidney reniculi (Cummings 1985). /=\

Southern Right Whale Behavior

Southern right whales are migratory (make seasonal movements between regions, such as between breeding and wintering grounds), and social (associates with others of its species; forms social groups). Southern right whales migrate to the southern latitudes of their range during the summer months where plankton populations are more abundant, and migrate north during winter and spring. [Source: Julia Smith, Animal Diversity Web (ADW) /=]

Southern right whales can be very curious. They sometimes approach within inches of divers and whale watching boats to check people out. They sometimes rub their entire bodies up against divers "like a house cat — no, like a 30-ton cat the size of a house." Off of Argentina right whales take advantage of the strong Patagonian winds to “sail.” The stick their flukes up into the air and let the wind push them. They seem to do it solely for the pleasure of it, and it is one of several games they play. For protection from killer whales, right whales rush into shallow water to protect their undersides. ┴

Southern right whales produce short, low frequency moans and pulses. Also heard, often below and above the water's surface, are the blows of the southern right whales. However, the most common sound produced is a belch-like utterance that averages 1.4 seconds long at a frequency of less than 500 Hz. These whales also produce simple moans in a narrow range of frequencies and complex moans that shift frequencies and overtones. Other sounds created by southern right whales are those caused by the slapping of theirs fins and tails, while rolling over at the surface of the water — usually occurring during mating courtships. /=\

Southern right whales commonly engage in a behavior called "headstanding", in which they assume a vertical position and extend the flukes into the air, often rocking back and forth, for as long as two minutes at a time. Research initially indicated that this position was used for feeding on benthic (bottom-dwelling) organisms, however is more recently believed to be either a resting position or a courtship stimulus. Southern right whales are also commonly seen breeching — turning in midair and falling into the water with the side or back of the body. This behavior may dislodge parasites from the whale's surface, but is also a display mechanism during mating /=\

Southern Right Whale Mating, Reproduction and Young

Hundreds of southern right whales come to the relatively calm and warm waters of the Gulf of San Jose formed by the Valdez Peninsula near Puerto Piramides, on the central eastern coast of Argentin, to give birth and raise their newborns. The Peninsula Valdez is an enormous cape enclosing two large, almost landlocked bays. The Gulf of San Jose, on the south side of the peninsula, is one of the world's largest breeding grounds for right whales of any species. From July to December the large whales mate and raise their young not far from the bay's shores. Boating, whale watching and scuba diving trips give visitors a chance to see them up close. The breeding season ends as the blooms of plankton start to increase and the whales head off to their feeding grounds.┴

Southern right whales are viviparous, meaning they give birth to live young that developed in the body of the mother, and engage in seasonal breeding. They mate and calve between 20 and 30° S and mostly in protected bays during the months of June to November, with the average number of offspring being one. The average gestation period is 12 months. The weaning age ranges from four to six months. On average males and females reach sexual maturity at age 10 years. [Source: Julia Smith, Animal Diversity Web (ADW) /=]

Southern right whales are polyandrous, with females having up to seven males. Courtship and copulation have described as tender and graceful. The duration of courting bouts varies, but usually lasts for an hour or two, after which the males and females separate from one another. There seems to be no animosity between males mating with the same female, which is quite unusual for mammals. It is believed that this passive behavior implies intra-uterine sperm competition. /=\

pygmy right whale

Southern right whale females calve every three years. Calves weigh 1000 to 1500 kilograms (1.1 to to 1.7 US tons) and are five to six meters long. They grow at a rate of three centimeters per day. /Females with calves usually don't mate. The calves are born in the austral winter. Dr. Roger Payne, a biologist who has spent many years studying whales wrote: “Tiny newborns stay in constant motion for their first month. A two- or three month play stages follows: some exasperated mothers roll over and hold their young between their flippers to quiet them. In November mother and calf show signs of coordinated travel before departing for the open sea."

Right whales mother are generally very patient creatures. A calf will sometimes slide down its mother’s fluke, climb onto her back, and even cover her blowhole, with no perceptible irritation from the mother. It is another story if the mothers become separated from their calves. Such females have charged tourist boats. [Source: Roger and Katy Payne, National Geographic, March 1976]

Pygmy Right Whales

Pygmy right whales(scientific name: Caperea marginata) are by far the smallest of the baleen whales. A very rare species, they may be a member of the cetotheres family of baleen whales which until 2012 were thought to be extinct. Many researchers classify them in their own family Neobalaenidae. First described by John Edward Gray in 1846, they are the smallest of the baleen whales, ranging between 6 and 6.5 meters (20 and 21 feet) in length and 3,000 and 3,500 kilograms (6,610 and 7,720 pounds) in weight. Despite its name, the pygmy right whale may have more in common with the gray whale and rorquals than the bowhead and right whales. [Source: Wikipedia]

Pygmy right whales are among the least studied whales. Their skull and skeleton are unlike those of any other livubg whale. Before 2008, there were fewer than 25 sightings of them. They live in the Southern Hemisphere and are believed to be circumpolar, living in a band from about 30°S to 55°S in areas with surface water temperatures between 5 and 20°C (41 and 68°F). Individuals have been found on the coasts of Chile, Tierra del Fuego, Namibia, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. One group may be a year-round resident off Tasmania. The total population is unknown.

pygmy right whale size

Pygmy right whales feed on copepods and euphausiids (krill). Little is known about their population or social habits. Unlike most other baleen whales, it was rarely the target of whaling. Calves are estimated to be about 1.6 meters (5.25 feet) to 2.2 meters (7.25 feet) in) at birth. It is believed they become sexually mature at about 5 meters (16 feet) and physically mature at about 6 meters (20 feet). The longest male recorded was a 6.1 meter (20 foot) individual had stranded in Cloudy Bay, Tasmania. The longest female was a 6.5 meter (21.2-foot) individual stranded in Stanley, Tasmania in 1981. Pygmy right whales can weigh as much as 3,430 kilograms (7,560 pounds). A 6.21-meter (20.4-foot) female weighed 3,200 kilograms (7,100 pounds).

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons, NOAA

Text Sources: Animal Diversity Web (ADW) animaldiversity.org; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) noaa.gov; Wikipedia, National Geographic, Live Science, BBC, Smithsonian, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, Reuters, Associated Press, Lonely Planet Guides and various books and other publications.

Last Updated May 2023

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