The southern right whale (Eubalaena australis) is a member of the right whale group, native to south of the Equator. These whales are giant in size with prominent heads, baleen plates, and short flippers. They are found in the Antarctic region with populations near Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
The name, southern right whale, was given to this species as they are found in the south and were the right kind of whales to hunt. These whales are usually found near land which made it easier for whalers to target them. Fortunately, whaling has been illegal for quite a while which has helped in recovering their numbers. However, some populations continue to be endangered. Southern right whales feed on zooplankton using their baleen plates. They are migratory and travel to warmer regions to breed. These whales are quite popular for whale-watchers too. Southern right whales are an essential part of the marine ecosystem they reside in, and hence, awareness about their conservation should be raised among the general public.
Southern right whales are marine mammals found to the south of the equator.
What class of animal does a southern right whale belong to?
The southern right whale (Eubalaena australis) belongs to the class Mammalia. They are a part of the Balaenidae family.
How many southern right whales are there in the world?
In 2009, the global population of southern right whales was observed to be around 13,600. Ever since, there have been fluctuations in the populations of these animals throughout their range. Unfortunately, the sub-population of this species in Chile and Peru has significantly reduced with no signs of recovery. There are less than 50 adult whales in this region.
Where does a southern right whale live?
Southern right whales are endemic to the Southern Hemisphere. These whales have a sub-polar range and reside in sub-Antarctic water in the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Indian Ocean. However, during the breeding season, they migrate to warmer regions. Their breeding grounds include the southern parts of Australia, South Africa, and South America. They are also found near New Zealand.
What is a southern right whale's habitat?
Southern right whales live in coastal waters and oceans. They inhabit regions near the continental landmasses and islands. While their feeding areas are characterized by the colder waters of their sub-Antarctic range, their breeding grounds are towards the warmer and temperate waters. These right whales live near the surface of the water.
Who do southern right whales live with?
During migration, southern right whales display solitary behavior. At times, female whales accompany their young offspring. However, during breeding, the gathering of large groups has been noted.
How long does a southern right whale live?
The lifespan of this species of whales in captivity can be up to 70 years.
How do they reproduce?
Southern right whales breed from the months of June to November after migrating to warmer waters. These whales are polygynous, with each female mating with up to seven males. Before mating, these whales engage in courtship displays. Consequently, the females give birth to one calf, following a gestation period of a year. A year after birth, the calf is independent.
What is their conservation status?
The conservation status of the southern right whale (Eubalaena australis) has been marked as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN. However, the populations of this species in Chile and Peru are marked as Critically Endangered. These whales faced a drastic decline due to whaling which continued for a long time before being declared illegal. Southern right whales also face threats from entangling in any kind of fishing gear, collision with large vessels, and attacks from kelp gulls.
Southern Right Whale Fun Facts
What do southern right whales look like?
Southern right whales are quite big in size and have a prominent head. They are usually gray, black, or dark brown in color with white patches on their belly. The skin of the giant head in this species is covered in rough and white patches, known as callosities. The most prominent callosities are positioned right at the front of their head and this portion is known as the bonnet. These whales have short flippers and lack any dorsal fin. Since southern right whales are baleen whales, they have two blowholes.
How cute are they?
More than cute, southern right whales are majestic marine mammals found throughout the Southern Hemisphere. They also help us learn more about whales and the need to conserve and protect their populations.
How do they communicate?
Southern right whales use a variety of sounds to effectively communicate with each other. Their most common call sounds like a belch and only lasts for a little over a second. These whales also produce moans that can barely be heard above the surface of the water. These moans can be simple or complex in nature. While the simple moans are limited in frequency, the complex moans change in frequency. At times, loud bellows can be heard. This species also relies on visual displays to communicate. For example, as part of their mating display, these whales rise above the water, turn in mid-air, and fall back into the water with their back or side touching the water surface first.
How big is a southern right whale?
This species of a baleen whale is quite large and has a body length between 52.4-59 ft (16-18 m). Southern right whales are larger than other species of right whales, such as the North Atlantic right whales which have a body length between 43-52 ft (13.1-15.8 m).
How fast can a southern right whale swim?
Southern right whales are described as slow swimmers. While migrating, these whales swim with a speed of 1.6-2.6 mph (2.7-4.2 kph). At times, they can attain speeds up to 9.3 mph (15 kph) or more. However, they can only travel short distances with this speed. They also travel by 'sailing', in which they hold their tail or flukes above the surface of the water and consequently, move forward with the help of the wind pushing them.
How much does a southern right whale weigh?
Southern right whales are quite large in size and have a huge weight range between 17,6370-19,8416 lb (80,000-90,000 kg).
What are the male and female names of the species?
Male southern right whales are known as bulls, while females are known as cows.
What would you call a baby southern right whale?
A baby southern right whale is known as a calf.
What do they eat?
Primarily, southern right whales feed on zooplankton. Their diet mainly consists of krill which is a kind of zooplankton. These whales either feed near the surface of the water, or when they are submerged in places with a high density of food material. Being a baleen whale, this species has numerous baleen plates which they use to feed. The plates filter out the water, leaving the plankton behind for the whale to eat. During the summer season, the feeding grounds for these whales are the high latitude areas of the Southern Ocean.
Are they dangerous?
Southern right whales are not really dangerous. In fact, they are known to display playful and curious behavior towards humans. There have also been instances of these whales interacting with dolphins and humpback whales.
Would they make a good pet?
Given the size of these whales and their requirements, it would be impossible to accommodate these animals at home. However, it is entirely possible to catch a glimpse of these magnificent whales in their feeding or breeding grounds.
Did you know...
Southern right whales have a partitioned blow-hole which is why the water vapor and condensation that comes out of this blow-hole is v-shaped. This is a characteristic feature of this species.
These whales are known to slap the surface of the water with their flippers. This action is known as flippering.
Why is the southern right whale endangered?
Southern right whales are currently not endangered, unlike the blue whale, even though their sub-populations in Chile and Peru are listed as Critically Endangered, due to a considerably low number of individuals. Except for in some regions, the overall numbers of these whales have recovered after being nearly extinct due to whaling. Whaling continued until the 20th century in many parts before being banned. Continual threats to southern right whales are from entanglement in fishing gear, attacks from kelp gulls, and collision with large vessels like ships. They are also vulnerable to climate change and habitat loss which alter their availability of food. Underwater noises created by humans due to drilling can affect their communication and interrupt normal mating. It is imperative to provide protection to this species as they form an important part of the marine ecosystem.
What makes the southern right whale unique?
There are three species of right whales in the world, under the genus Eubalaena. Apart from southern right whales, the other two whales are North Atlantic right whales and North Pacific right whales. These whales are known as right whales as they were the right kind of whales to hunt by whalers. There are several factors that set the right whales apart from other whales. Right whales have huge heads which can measure as much as one-third of the length of their body. Their head has toughened skin known as callosities which act as a unique identifying marker of each whale. Among all the large whales, right whales happen to be the rarest and need active protection so that their populations are maintained.
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