The Whales

right whale

The right whale is a large, bulky baleen whale of unusual appearance. As baleen whales they have 225 to 250 fringed overlapping plates hanging from the upper jaw, where teeth might otherwise be located.

These plates are made of a fingernail like material called Keratin that fray out into fine hairs on the ends.  Its upper and lower jaws are highly curved, allowing its long baleen plates to be enclosed while swimming.  The jaws are covered by “callosities”, hardened patches of skin. 

Adults are between 35 to 55 feet (10.7-16.8 meters) long with females slightly larger than males. 

Right Whale 

19" Long x 5.5" High
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The rights diet is less varied than many baleen whales, feeding exclusively on planktonic organisms.  Not needing to outrun their food rights are among the slowest of whales, but can go up to 10 mph (17 km/ph) in short spurts.  They are known to dive to 1,000 feet (308 meters) and stay submerged up to 40 minutes. 

Because they swim slowly and float when dead, they were easily taken with lances and lampoons from small boats and thus the “right” whale to kill.  Exploitation by Europeans began as early as the 12th century in the Bay of Biscay.  Rights were hunted ruthlessly for centuries before they gained full protection in 1931 and are extremely endangered despite decades of protection. 

There are 3,000 to 4,000 in the Southern Hemisphere, but only 300 to 350 in the North Atlantic and a scant 100 in the North Pacific.  Although not hunted, problems include collisions with ships, conflicts with some fishing activities, habitat destruction, oil drilling, and possible competition from other whales species.  Survival is questionable.




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