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                North Atlantic Right Whale

                North Atlantic Right Whale

                Kingdom
                Phylum
                Subphylum
                Class
                Order
                Infraorder
                Family
                Genus
                SPECIES
                Eubalaena glacialis
                Population size
                300-350
                Life Span
                50-100 yrs
                TOP SPEED
                16 km/h
                WEIGHT
                40-70 t
                LENGTH
                13-16 m

                The North Atlantic right whale is one of the rarest of marine mammals. It is a big, mostly black animal with some whitish patches on its head and belly, it lacks a dorsal fin, and it has a graceful, deeply notched tail or "fluke". It has long fringes of baleen rather than teeth, which are used for straining tiny animals out of the water for food. A pair of blowholes on its head cause the right whale's spout to have a distinctive V-shape. It is amongst the most endangered of the world's marine mammals.

                Distribution

                North Atlantic right whales inhabit the western North Atlantic, from Nova Scotia to Florida. They migrate from a calving ground near Florida and Georgia on North America's eastern seaboard, to summering grounds in the Bay of Fundy, the Gulf of Maine, and the Scotian Shelf, with some animals going as far as the Gulf of St Lawrence, the Denmark and Davis Straits and sometimes Iceland and Norway. The species migrates between two essential habitats: calving grounds and feeding grounds, the latter in the north of the range and the former in the warmer waters of the south of the range, in bays or shallow coastal waters.

                North Atlantic Right Whale habitat map

                Climate zones

                Habits and Lifestyle

                These whales generally travel solo or with a small group. The usual group size ranges from two to 12 but is usually two. The composition of the group varies from female-calf, males only, or mixed. Group size is difficult to determine because of the dispersion. Larger groups may exist over long distances by staying in contact with echolocation. These whales are quite social and swim alongside other species of cetaceans. Social groups can moan and bellow at night to each other around breeding areas. Females will sometimes swim while on their backs, cradling a newborn calf on their bellies in their huge flippers. The North Atlantic right whale will make a series of brief shallow dives before diving underwater for as long as 20 minutes.

                Diet and Nutrition

                North Atlantic right whales feed on zooplankton and krill.

                Mating Habits

                MATING BEHAVIOR
                REPRODUCTION SEASON
                in winter
                PREGNANCY DURATION
                12-13 months
                BABY CARRYING
                1 calf
                INDEPENDENT AGE
                1 year
                FEMALE NAME
                cow
                MALE NAME
                bull
                BABY NAME
                calf

                These whales are polyandrous, with females mating with many males. No aggression is seen between competing males, a rare behavior for mammals. A North Atlantic right whale mates in the winter. Gestation lasts 12-13 months, with females giving birth to a single calf. Every three to four years they give birth to one calf. The mother and her calf remain close together until around the age of one when the calf is weaned. During the first year the calf learns from its mother where the critical feeding grounds are, and it will visit them for the rest of its life. North Atlantic right whales are sexually mature between 8 – 11 years old.

                Population

                Population threats

                This species is threatened by being separated from calving areas due to shipping traffic by, ship collisions and by becoming tangled in fishing nets, entanglement sometimes causing serious injury or death because fishing gear can wrap around the whale’s mouth and stop it from feeding or cause it to drown because it cannot surface for air. Oceans warming up can impact the food sources of whales. Extensive patches of minute animals and plants that they eat will likely change in abundance or move elsewhere as seawater temperature, ocean currents and winds alter due to climate change. The shift in the availability of food has already damaged the reproductive rates of this endangered whale.

                Population number

                According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of the North Atlantic right whale is estimated to be around 300-350 individuals. Currently this species is classified as Endangered (EN).

                Fun Facts for Kids

                • Despite its bulk, the North Atlantic right whale can perform acrobatics like jumping above the water's surface, known as breaching, vigorously slapping the surface of the water with its tail and slapping the water with a pectoral fin.
                • The scientific name for the right whale, Eubalaena glacialis, means "good, or true, whale of the ice."
                • Right whales emit low frequency sounds that could be a means of communication. When they eat, the water flowing across their baleen plates makes a clicking "baleen rattle."
                • These whales usually are not afraid of boats and can easily be approached by them.
                • Like other baleens, these whales use filter feeding for capturing their prey.
                • Many pods of North Atlantic right whales consist of a mother with her child or several family members or friends who travel together.

                References

                1. North Atlantic Right Whale Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Atlantic_right_whale
                2. North Atlantic Right Whale on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/41712/0

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