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North Atlantic Right Whale

  • Right whales are so-named because whalers considered them the ‘right’ whales to hunt - they were easy to approach and catch; floated when dead, and had a lot of oil in the cells of their blubber. North Atlantic right whales came very close to extinction in the early 1900s and it is thought today that the eastern North Atlantic stock is now functionally extinct. North Atlantic right whales are one of the most endangered of the great whales (along with the North Pacific right whale) with a worldwide population of fewer than 500.
  • The North Atlantic right whale is notable for its huge head, which can be more than one quarter the total body length, and a strongly arched mouthline. It has horny growths called callosities mostly on the top of its lower head and lip. Whale lice live on these callosities and make them white, pink, yellow or orange. 
  • North Atlantic right whales swim slowly, yet are surprisingly acrobatic, they are known for breaching and slapping their flippers against the water when rolling over. They are playful, curious animals, and often poke and bump objects they find in the water. Socially-active groups can be heard moaning and bellowing at night around breeding areas.
  • The vast majority of North Atlantic right whales are found in the western North Atlantic, off the coasts of Canada and North America.
  • North Atlantic right whales are threatened by habitat loss, human disturbance, entanglement in fishing gear and collisions with ships. They are currently listed on the IUCN Red List as Endangered (2008).