Whales have an incredibly important role to play in balancing the ecosystems of our seas. One such whale is the Southern Right Whale, a species that has fascinated scientists for decades due to their very specific habits. These oceanic mammals are “ecosystem engineers” as they help to keep sea life healthy. In general, whales can redistribute nutrients all across the oceans, and the Southern Right Whale is a true testament to this. Unfortunately, their natural habitat, the South West of the Atlantic Ocean, is under threat due to industrial fishing.
Below, you will find some of the most interesting facts about this particular species of whale, whose distinctive appearance, combined with the slow pace at which it moves, makes it difficult to confuse with any other species of marine life.
They Are One Of The Largest Species Of Whale
Also known by its scientific name of Eubalaena australis, the Southern Right Whale is one of the largest known species of whale. The average male is anywhere between 13 to 15 meters long, while the average female measures in at around 16 meters in length. Usually found in the Southern Hemisphere’s subtropical waters, these whales are quite curious and when close to humans, are known to be quite playful.
They Have Distinctive Markings
Southern Right Whales are fairly easy to identify compared to other species of whale. For one, they have characteristic calluses on their skin that function almost like fingerprints do, allowing each whale to be identified by its skin throughout its lifetime.
These calluses are raised areas of skin that are usually around five or more centimeters thick and can be found on different parts of the whale’s head. They also have a V-shaped spout and lack dorsal fins, making it easier to distinguish them from other kinds of whale, such as the Humpback Whale.
They Don’t Have Teeth
Instead of chewing their food, Southern Right Whales use baleen plates to catch their food. These long sheets of keratin (which is what our hair and fingernails are made from) hang from the top of the whale’s mouth. This enables them to feed ‘by filter’ as they open and close their jaws while they swim. They then use their throats and tongues to push the water back out of their mouths, allowing the water to flow out but entrapping the plankton.
Where To Spot Them
The Southern Right Whale can be seen in waters off the coasts of Australia, South Africa, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and New Zealand, to name a few. Approximately one third of all Southern Right Whales in the world mate and give birth in the protected bays of Argentina’s Valdes Peninsula. Typically, whale calves are born between May and December. Like the winning Melbourne Cup odds, the odds are good you’ll spot them during season.
Thankfully, unlike the whales that can be found in the North Pacific and North Atlantic oceans, the Southern Right Whale population is beginning to recover after centuries of commercial hunting. A lot of effort has been put into preserving whale populations around the world, and the Southern Right success story is one that will undoubtedly inform future endeavors too.