Georgia State Mammal
North Atlantic Right Whale (common name)
Eubalaena glacialis (scientific name)
Three right whale species are recognized in the genus Eubalaena: the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis), the Southern right whale (Eubalaena australis), and the North Pacific right whale(Eubalaena japonica). They are called "right whales" because whalers thought these whales were the "right" ones to hunt since they live near shore. They swim slowly and when they die, they float. Populations were vastly reduced by intensive hunting during the active years of the whaling industry. The North Atlantic right whale is the world's most endangered large whale, with fewer than 350 animals remaining. Georgia selected it as its official state marine mammal in 1985 because the only known calving grounds of this whale lie within 15 miles of the Georgia and north Florida coastline.
ALSO KNOWN AS
The head of the right whale is large, about 1/4 of the body length, and its body is stocky and very dark gray or black. The animal has a broad back without a dorsal fin and a long arching mouth that begins above the eye. Right whales have callosities on their heads. These callosities appear white, not because of skin pigmentation but because of large colonies of cyamids or whale lice. The tail is broad, deeply notched, and all black with a smooth trailing edge. Two rows of long baleen plates hang from the upper jaw, with about 225 plates on each side. Right whales have a distinctive, wide V-shaped blow, caused by the widely spaced blowholes on the top of the head. The blow rises to 16 ft (5 m) above the ocean's surface.
Very little is known about the life span of right whales because they are so scarce; 70 years or more may not be uncommon.
Range: Shallow, coastal waters of the North Atlantic
Conservation Status: Endangered. A worldwide total ban on right whaling was agreed upon in 1937. The ban was largely successful, although some whaling continued in violation of the ban for several decades. Leading causes of death among the North Atlantic right whale are collisions with ships and entanglement in fishing gear.
Although they are slow swimmers, right whales are highly acrobatic and frequently breach, tail-slap, and lobtail. Right whales are not gregarious and typically live in pairs. Their only non-human predator is the orca. When threatened, a group of right whales encircle their young, with their tails pointing outward, to deter a predator. Calves are, however, occasionally separated from their mother and killed. Right whales feed by "skimming" along with their mouth open. Water and food enter the mouth but only the water can pass through the baleen and out again into the open sea.
Zooplankton, primarily the tiny crustaceans called copepods, as well as krill and pteropods.
Breeding interval: 3–5 years
Birthing period: December through March
Average litter size: 1 calf
Size at birth: 1 ton in weight and 4–6 m (13–20 ft) in length
Click to enlarge an image
Data Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Author: World Trade Press