Southern Right Whales are a special kind of wonderful. They are classified as endangered with an estimated population of only 12,000 – (compared to world wide estimated population of the Humpback, 80,000 worldwide, also endangered but classified “least concern”)
Southern Right Whales are also baleen whales, they have been measured at up to 18 metres long, with weight up to 80 tonnes. Like they Humpback, they have 2 blowholes which shoot out spray in a V shape. Southern Rights are considered less playful than Humpback Whales, but have been known to interact with marine vessels quite regularly.
They are usually black, but very occasionally grey, and have 2 main distinguishing features, one is obvious when you see them – the other not so much. Most notably, Southern Right Whales have what are called “callosities” on their heads and upper jaw, whitish in appearance due to a whale lice inhabiting the growths. Secondly, they have quite probably the largest testes of any animal on the planet with each one weighing in at around 500kg.
Lets do some more fast facts:
- The name evolved as they were considered the “right” whale to hunt. They move slowly, float when they are dead and store huge amounts of blubber which was boiled down to oil used for illumination and lubrication (among other things)
- Gestation is 11 – 12 months. Weaning occurs around 12 months. Females only produce, on average, every 3 years.
- Calving and mating season is between June and August. Southern Rights tend to spend more time in Tasmanian waters than their Humpback friends (who are just passing through), the Southern Right will seek shelter in bays of the Derwent and along the East Coast to breed.
- They have very strong maternal connections and have been known to nurse unrelated orphans.
- They spend Summer in the Southern Ocean, close to Antarctica, feeding on krill, mysids and plankton among other tiny crustaceans.
A little more conservation information.