Southern right whale

Eubalaena australis

Southern right whale Southern right whale
The commonly used Right Whale name corresponds actually to 3 scientifically distinct species:
  1. North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis)
  2. North Pacific right whale (Eubalaena japonica)
  3. Southern right whale (Eubalaena australis)
The name "Right Whale" was given by whalers. These whales are in fact slow swimmers and, due to their very high fat content, they also naturally floated when killed. Because of that they were the "right" whales to hunt.
The 3 species of Right whales share some important and distinctive features:
  • Very bulky, fatty body
  • Lack of a dorsal fin
  • Presence of callosities over the head, especially where men do normally have hair (chin, above the eyes, along the vertical axis of the head from the blowholes to the top of the snout)
  • Slow swimmer, nonetheless quite acrobatic
  • V-shaped blow
  • Very long baleen
  • Large, paddle-like pectoral fins
  • Flukes with a distinct notch, and very smooth trailing edges
  • White patches on the belly
  • Lack of throat pleats (throat grooves)
The Southern Right Whale populations are in a better state than their Northern Hemisphere cousins and they have recovered to a number of at least 9000 individuals.
The favourite breeding and calving grounds for this species are the coasts of Australia, New Zealand and Argentina. The calm, shallow waters of Peninsula Valdes (Argentina) are probably the most famous place in the world to observe the Southern Right Whale only a few metres away from shore. Gestation is about 12 months long, and so is weaning. Researchers have observed that one calf in about 50 is born white, but it then turns to normal adult colour within the first year of its life.
The favourite breeding and calving grounds for this species are the coasts of Australia, New Zealand and Argentina. The calm, shallow waters of Peninsula Valdes (Argentina) are probably the most famous place in the world to observe the Southern Right Whale only a few metres away from shore. Gestation is about 12 months long, and so is weaning. Researchers have observed that one calf in about 50 is born white, but it then turns to normal adult colour within the first year of its life.
The Southern Right Whale raises sometimes its flukes out of the water and use them as sails. While some scientists reckon this is a form of play, others suspect this could also be a feeding technique.