The Southern right whale is a whale found around the southern shores of Australia.
Being a whale, it is a mammal, hat is it breathes air and the young are feed milk by
Southern Right Whales , or "Eubalaena australis" ("eu"
(Greek for right), "balaena" (Latin for whale) and "australis" (Latin for
southern) are also sometimes known as a Black Right Whale or as the Pacific Right Whale
Though there are over 40 species of whales sighted in Australian waters,
the Southern Right Whale was almost hunted to extinction and nowdays is thought to
have a population of only 2,000 to 6,000 animals left.
Why the name RIGHT
They were thought to be the "right" whales to hunt because
a) They were large (thus rich in oil and blubber)
b) Slow moving
c) They came close inshore
d) because of all the oil they floated when killed
The right whale is a huge creature measuring around 15 to 17 meters long and weighing
up to 100 metric tons.
(This though is still only 1/2 the size of the worlds biggest whale the Blue Whale)
On the outside they look identical to the other species of right whale the
"Northern right Whale"
Their colouring is mainly black (occasionally brown) with a white patch found on
They have a large head with distinctive "barnacle like" growths called callosities
(which also appear around its jaws and eyes) and they have hairs on their upper jaw
They have no dorsal fin but long wide flippers and wide notched tail flukes
It is believed they live over 50 years
During the night you can hear them moaning and they also make low growls
Southern right whales are slow swimmers cruising at around 3 km/h
They have 2 blow holes which produce a wide V shape spout of water vapour
These are the barnacle or wart looking white patches on the head and face of right whales
The biggest callosities is found on top of their head and this is known as the "bonnet
Each pattern of callosities is different for each whale.
It is believed that they use them like small horns for fighting
Right whales though slow swimmers are quiet acrobatic in the water, breaching quiet
often (jumping 1/2 out of the water), waving their flippers and they also go sailing
by putting their head under the water and using their broad tail flukes as sails to
capture the wind.
The Southern Right swims along and filters large mouthfuls of water through their comb
like Baleens to capture and swallow plankton-copepods (microscopic sea creature) or Krill
They swallow over 2 tonnes a day ! They can spend over 1/2 their day feeding
The Southern right whales are a type
of "Baleen" whale which means they filter their
food through baleen plates (like giant hairy combs) which are of a lightweight but
tough "plastic" type material.
(Once used for corsets and hairpins before plastic was invented)
The Southern right has 220 to 260 baleen plates in each side of its upper jaw
Though several males may try to fertilise a female, only one male is successful.
These two do not mate for life.
The female cow is then pregnant for a year and tends to give birth in the winter in
shallow coastal waters. (often on the southern Australian coastline)
They tend to give birth every 3 years or so.
The new-born weighs around 1 tonne and is 4 to 6 meters long and stays very close to
is mother for the first year of its life and still remains close for the next 2 years
as the bond between calf and cow is very strong.
The calf consumes over 100lires of milk daily and is weaned after 1 year
Basically the right whale migrates from its summer eating grounds near Antarctica to
their breeding grounds of the southern continent like Australia, South America and
Africa in Winter.
This distribution falls between the latitudes of 20°S and 55°S.
As earlier mentioned they were hunted close to extinction due to them being the
"right" whale to hunt due to its large size, slow movement, proximity to shore,
and that they floated when killed.
Their numbers went from 100,000 around the year 1800 to only 3,000 in 1935
More numerous sightings recently, hopefully means numbers are on the increase.