As the name suggests the North Atlantic right whale can be found living in the North Atlantic Ocean in temperate waters.
Due to severe hunting in the past this species has seen large declines in both their population size and breeding frequency.
Their large size, slow nature and coastal lifestyle all contributed to making them easy prey for whalers during the explosion of the History of Whaling in the 17th century as well as during earlier whaling expeditions.
Physical characteristics and Appearance
In terms of appearance the North Atlantic right whale has a dark gray to black skin tone with intermittent white spotting along its belly.
These whales are known for their unique shape and the white calluses that form on their head.
These whales are also distinguished by their large broad backs which lack any kind of dorsal fin or stabilizer.
When fully matured the North Atlantic right whales can reach lengths of 40 – 60 ft. and weigh up to 115 tons with up to 40% of the whale’s body weight being composed of blubber.
On average however these whales grow somewhere between 42 – 52 ft long and weigh between 45 – 75 tons.
As with other species of baleen whale the females tend to grow larger than their male counterparts when fully grown.
Diet and Hunting Methods
As with other species of baleen whale these whales use a hunting method known as filter feeding to capture their prey.
During feeding season these whales may be seen gathered together in areas that are highly concentrated with krill and various invertebrate that they can feed on.
During mating season the North Atlantic right whale can be found migrating to coastal waters where they can breed and give birth to their young.
Habitat and Migration
As the name implies the North Atlantic right whale can be founding swimming and living in the North Atlantic Ocean.
These whales can be seen in gathered in various popular locations throughout the U.S. such as Cape Cod, the Gulf of Maine, Florida, New Bedford and New York and throughout various counties such as Africa, Ireland, New England, North Europe (rare sightings), Norway, Portugal and Spain among other areas with temperate waters.
Social Structure and Communication
The North Atlantic right whale communicates through the use of low pitched moaning and whining sounds.
Communication may also involve physical contact such as bumping and touching one another’s flippers.
These whales can usually be found traveling alone or in small pods of 2 – 3 whales, however larger groups may be found traveling together during mating season.
In many cases pods may consist of a mother and her child or 2 – 3 family members/friends who travel together.
While Female whales can often be seen traveling with their young males may or may not be found traveling with their children or female counterparts as long-term relationships are often rare among this species.
Reproduction and Lifespan
The average gestation period for the North Atlantic right whale is 12 – 13 months.
After birth the female whale may nurse her child for up to 2 years although most whales are able to survive on their own within the first 12 months.
These whales reach sexual maturity between the ages of 8 – 11 at which point they may begin bearing offspring of their own.
It is estimated that the North Atlantic right whale gives birth to a single offspring once every 3 – 6 years on average while they are fertile.
Not much is known about the lifespan of these whales, however it is estimated that the North Atlantic right whale has a lifespan of 50 – 100 years.
Previously the North Atlantic right whale was a heavily hunted marine mammal due to its large size, habitat and slow behavior.
During the whaling era tons of North Atlantic right whales were slaughtered causing this species to become severally depleted in numbers.
In fact despite being a highly protected species low population numbers have made it difficult for these marine mammals to repopulate their stocks.
Currently there are estimates of 250 – 500 North Atlantic right whales still in existence.
Although they are now a protected species these whales still face numerous threats that challenge their existence.
Today common threats for the North Atlantic right whale include collisions with passing ships, becoming entangled in fishing nets and other fishing gear and potential pollution.
Due to the fact that these marine mammals enjoy remaining close to land they are increasingly exposed to potential threats of being struck by passing ships and other commercial vessels.
In areas where commercial fishers lay casting nets and other types of aquatic gear there is the potential that a right whale could end up caught in the fishing net and since these animals are mammals it is highly possible they could drown if they are unable to resurface and acquire oxygen.
In addition to being affected by boat traffic their desire to live close to land also exposes them to the possibility of becoming ill from chemical pollution and waste.
These types of pollution can either affect the whale directly or through poisoning the food they consume.
Whales that suffer from pollution are known to face several issues including, reproductive issues, possible deformity and death.
Other potential threats
As a small population these whales could theoretically face large scale issues should they become sick.
The fact that their are so few North Atlantic right whales in existence means that disease and sickness could potentially wipe out an entire population.
Because these whales live close to land they aren’t known to face any real threats from possible predators.
The only primary threat/predator to these marine mammals are humans.
Due to their severally depleted stocks additional laws and regulations have been placed to prevent further endangerments of these whales and numerous recovery proposals have been made and implemented to try and help these whales repopulate, however the future of the North Atlantic right whale remains unknown.