Northern Right Whale
The Northern Right Whale can befound in the areas marked in yellow in the map above. Named by whalers because it was the 'right' whale to hunt, Right whales were easy to kill because they were slow moving and, due to large amounts of blubber, would float after they died. The blubber was made into oil and baleen was used for corsets and buggy whips. Hunted to near extinction they were finally protected in 1931. Although the Southern species seems to be bouncing back, there are only about 400 of the northern species left. Ship collisions and entanglement in fishing gear is the most common cause of injury and death today.
Right whales can be distinguished from other whales by their 'V' shaped blow, stuby pectoral fins, a large head (about 1/4 of body length), callosities, no dorsal fin and a broad, deeply notched tail. The callosities found around the head are actually roughened patches of raised tissue. It has the same color as the whale's skin. The light color is caused by cyamids or 'whale lice' that live on the callosity. The pattern formed by the callosities is unique to each whale and is what researchers use to identify individuals.
Adults are 45-55 feet long and can weigh up to 70 tons. Females are usually 10 years old when they have their first calf. Birthing takes place off the coast of the FL/GA border with the majority of the sightings off Amelia Island. Calving occurs December thru March. But don't get any ideas about going out to try and view a mom and calf - Federal law prohibits approaching a right whale closer than 500 yards. They are frequently within a mile or two of shore, so sightings from the beach are possible.
More info about Right WhalesFollow the latest news on the survey crew from New England Aquarium (on Amelia Island) go to their blog. Absolutely amazing photos and article from National Geographic.
Interesting Right Whale factsThere are 3 Right Whales in the world:
Eubalaena japonica (North Pacific right whale)
Eubalaena australis (southern right whale)
and the one in our neighborhood......
Eubalaena glacialis(North Atlantic right whale)
Right Whale Baleen facts:Baleen plates are attached to the upper jaw of Right Whales. Sometimes called whalebone it actually is not bone but keratin, which is what nails, horn and hair are made of, with hair-like fringe on the ends. Each whale has 200-270 pairs of these plates which are up to 9.5 feet long. Right whales feed by slowly swimming near the water's surface with mouth open. The baleen filters out the planktonic organisms (shrimp-like krill and copepods) like a huge strainer.