Southern Right Whale

Southern Right Whale by April Collison

Southern Right Whale by April Collison

 

Southern Right Whale – Eubalaena australis

Conservation Status: Endangered
Length: Newborn calves 5 to 6 metres, Adult Females 11 to 15 metres, Adult Males 11 to 18 metres.
Weight: At birth about 1 to 1.5 tonnes, Adults weigh up to 80 tonnes.

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A Southern Right Whale surfaces and blows

Breading
Southern Right’s breed every 3 years. Mating and calving season in Australia is between July and August. Gestation lasts 11 to 12 months. Birth weight is about 1 to 2 tonnes. They reach sexual maturity at around 10 years of age or 12 to 13 meters in length. It is not known when they reach physical maturity but thought to be when they have reached 16 meters in length?

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Southern Right Whale Calve by Steffi Michalski

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A Southern Right Whale Mother and Calve

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A Southern Right Whale Calve

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A Southern Right Whale Calve Breaching

Diet / Feeding
Fish, krill and/or other crustaceans.

Southern Right feed by taking a large mouthful of water and food such as Krill. They then push the water out of their mouths using their tongues. Their mouths contain baleen plates which filter out the food which can then be swallowed.

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Southern Right Whale off Sydney, Australia

Description
Southern right whales have huge callosities (growths) on their heads which makes them easy to identify. The largest growth is called the “bonnet” and is on the tip of the rostrum (upper jaw of the skull). Southern Right Whales have broad backs with no fin, a large head with an arched mouthline and large, broad flippers. The flukes have broad, smooth and concave trailing edges with a deep notch in the middle. Their skin is black/brown and they have white patches on their bellies. Southern right whales have two blowholes and when they blow it is wide and V-shaped and up to 5m high.

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A Southern Right Whale surfaces and blows

 

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Southern Right Whale Tail

Field ID

  • Dark skin with irregular white patches on the throat and belly.
  • Rotund body
  • Callosities (white lumps) on large head, head about a quarter of their body length
  • V Shaped Blow – Two blowholes, very high blow/spout
  • Long & broad pectoral fins that are rectangular in shape
  • No fin on their back
  • Tail flukes raised when diving, broad flukes
  • Slow & deliberate swimmer
  • Highly acrobatic, frequently lobtails and spyhops
  • Very curious – may approach boats
  • Normally in small groups.
  • Baleen instead of teeth, strongly arched mouth line, large dark chin
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Southern Right Whale Blow

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Southern Right Whale Blow

Behaviour
Southern Right Whales are slow swimmers but are often seen partaking in acrobatic activities! They wave their flippers above the surface, breach, flipper-slap and lobtail. They usually live in small groups of two to three anmals. They are also known to bellow and moan when visiting breeding grounds.

The “Right” Whale to Catch
The Right Whales got their name from whales as they were the best or right whales to catch because they are slow swimmers, float when dead and provided large quantities of oil.

Commercial whaling began in Australia in the 1820’s and by 1845 75% of the Southern Right population had been wiped out. There were so few whales left that the whaling industry collapsed. It wasn’t until 1935 that they were officially protected. It is currently estimated that that there are approximately 12,000 southern right whales left throughout the southern hemisphere from an original population in in excess of 100,000 (source NSW Parks and Wildlife Service).

Southern Right whales have been officially protected in Australian waters since 1935.

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Southern Right Whale on the surface

Callosities ID
Callosities (white lumps) appear naturally and are a characteristic feature on the heads of Southern Right Whales. The purpose of Callosities is not known. They are light grey in colour, appearing white against the dark skin of the whale.

Callosities (white lumps) form a unique pattern on every Southern Right Whale, making them extremely useful in identifying individual animals.

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Callosities (white lumps) form a unique pattern on every Southern Right Whale

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The callosities on the head of a Southern Right Whale

Migration
Like the Humpback, the Southern Right whales migrate from their feeding grounds in the cold, rich waters of the Southern Ocean off Antarctica, to their breeding groups along the southern coastline of Australia.

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Southern Right Whale Migration Map by Garrettsen Eckerson

Southern Right’s are slow swimmers usually cruising along at around 3 kilometres per hour.

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A Southern Right Whale Calves Tail

Information Source – NSW Government.