Southern Right Whale

The southern right whale (Eubalaena australis) is a baleen whale, one of three species classified as right whalesbelonging to the genus Eubalaena. Like other right whales, the southern right whale is readily distinguished from others by the callosities on its head, a broad back without a dorsal fin, and a long arching mouth that begins above the eye. Its skin is very dark grey or black, occasionally with some white patches on the belly. The right whale's callosities appear white due to large colonies of cyamids (whale lice). It is almost indistinguishable from the closely related North Atlantic and the North Pacific right whales, displaying only minor skull differences. It may have fewer callosities on its head and more on its lower lips than the two northern species. Approximately 10,000 southern right whales are spread throughout the southern part of the Southern Hemisphere.

Southern Right Whale
  • Size

    Southern right whales are large "baleen" whales. Adults are generally between 45 and 55 feet (12.5-15.5 m) in length and can weigh up to 60 tons (120,000 lbs; 54,431 kg); females are larger than males.

    Calves are 13-15 feet (4.0-4.5 m) in length at birth.

  • Feeding

    The right whales' diets consist primarily of zooplankton, primarily the tiny crustaceans called copepods, as well as krill, and pteropods, although they are occasionally opportunistic feeders. As with other baleens, they feed by filtering prey from the water. They swim with an open mouth, filling it with water and prey.

  • Life History

    Females give birth to their first calf at about 8-10 years old. Gestation and weaning both last approximately 1 year. Females produce calves every 3 to 4 years.

    It is thought that right whales live at least 50 years, but there are few data on their longevity.

  • Behavior

    Like other right whales, they are rather active on the water surface, and being curious and playful towards human vessels. One behavior unique to the southern right whale, known as sailing, is that of using their elevated flukes to catch the wind, remaining in the same position for considerable amount of time. They have very strong maternal connections with locations and gene pools they were born in, and they are known to return to their 'birth spots' on 3-years intervals.