A right whale is one of the three species of baleen whales belonging to the genus Eubalaena. This species is one of the largest on Earth, after blue whales and bowheads. These whales have distinctive skin patches, are docile and prefer shallower waters near shorelines.
Taxonomy and right whale species
There are 3 species of these whales that belong to the genus Eubalaena. Their popular name comes from whalers which said that this is the right type of whale to hunt due to their docile nature, large amount of blubber and coastal tendencies. Eubalaena glacialis is the North Atlantic whale, E. japonica is the North Pacific whale and E. australis the Southern whale. The species belong to the family Balaenidae alongside bowhead whales.
These whales are large with a robust head. They present distinctive callosities or rough patches of skin mostly on the head, with distinctive patterns. These are actually caused by whale lice that are
actually parasitic crustaceans. The patterns are unique to each whale and so they are helpful for scientific studies.
An adult right whale may measure between 11 and 18 meters in length, with typical lengths ranging from 13 to 16 meters. The body is compact with a girth of up to 60 percent of the length. Contrary to most other baleen whales, they do not have a dorsal fin. These whales can weigh up to 90 tons, with males having the largest and heaviest penises being 2 meters long and weighing 500 kilograms. The baleen plates can be around 200 or 300 and they are usually about 2 meters long.
Right whale feeding habits
These whales are filter feeders. They swim at very low speeds with their mouth open, filling it with large amounts of water as well as zooplankton rich in crustaceans such as copepods or krill. With the help of the baleen plates, the whale expels all water and retains the prey which they then swallow through an opening that is smaller than a beach ball. The whales search for waters that have enough prey which must be large enough to be retained by the baleen plates as well as slow enough to be unable to escape, being that these whales are very slow swimmers with a top speed of less than 10 kilometers per hour.
Reproduction and lifespan
These whales prefer colder waters and thus the warm equatorial waters prevent the Northern species to mix with the Southern ones. In the North Atlantic, mating seasons have been observed throughout the year. There are usually groups of up to 20 males which typically surround just one female. She sits with the belly up and the males stroke it with their flippers. These males do not exhibit the aggressive behavior of humpback whales. Females breed once every three of four years. They give birth after a gestational period of about one year. Calves are 4 to 6 meters long and weigh almost a ton. The calf will double its length within the first year of its life. The oldest known right whale was 70 years old, but some individuals may live far longer.