The north pacific right whale is a large and robust whale that can be found traveling in the North Pacific Ocean.
Although efforts have been made to help these marine mammals recover from decades of whaling the likelihood that these whales will ever recover is extremely questionable.
In fact it is estimated that there are less than 100 of these whales currently traveling through the North Pacific Ocean.
Physical Characteristics and Appearance
In terms of size the north pacific right whale can reach lengths of up to 65 ft. however most whales’ measure closer to 48 – 60 ft. long and weigh between 100,000 – 180,000 lbs. when fully matured with up to 40% of its body weight consisting of blubber.
These whales are known for their unique shape and the white calluses that form their head.
In addition to the white calluses that grow on their head these whales are also distinguished by their large broad backs which are absent of a dorsal or stabilizer fin.
In terms of coloring these they have a dark gray to black skin tone with intermittent white spotting along the belly.
Diet and Hunting Methods
The north pacific right whale is known to consume a diet consisting primarily of copepods; however they can also be seen consuming small fish, krill, larvae, euphauiids, cyprids, zooplankton and other small invertebrate species.
Unlike other species of baleen whale the north pacific right whale gathers its food by skimming the surface of the water rather than lunging towards large schools of prey.
They may also make occasional dives for food when they are finding it difficult to locate food on or near the surface.
When hunting prey such as zooplankton these whales use their baleen bristles to trap their prey in their mouth then use their tongue to expel the water before swallowing their prey.
Their baleen plates and bristles are designed to capture particularly small prey while also allowing water to easily pass through so that it can be expelled.
Habitat and Migration
As the name suggests the north pacific right whale can be found swimming in the North Pacific Ocean.
Unfortunately due to severe hunting the north pacific right whale has become a very rare species.
On occasion these whales can be found traveling through the southeastern Bearing Sea, the Gulf of Alaska and the Sea of Okhotsk.
Social Structure and Communication
The north pacific right whale communicates by using low-pitched moaning and whining sounds, which can be heard over long distances.
Aside from using sound these whales may also communication through physical contact such as bumping into each other 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.
As with other whales that travel in small pods the north pacific right whales 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 choose to travel with their children or female mates as long-term relationships are often rare among these whales.
In terms of visual behavior these marine mammals have been observed breaching the water, tail slapping, fin slapping and spyhopping in order to observe their surroundings.
Due to excessive whaling efforts their now low population numbers have made it difficult for researchers to study their behavior.
Reproduction and Lifespan
The average gestation period for the north pacific right whale is estimated to be 12 – 13 months long.
After birth the female whale may be seen nursing her young for up to 2 years before their child is able to survive on its own, however in many cases the child is able to fend for itself within the first 12 months.
North pacific right 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 pacific 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 pacific right whale has a lifespan of 50 – 100 years.
Unfortunately very little is known about any possible threats that these marine mammals may face.
More data needs to be collected before any conclusive facts can be determined.
Possible threats may include getting entangled in fishing equipment and occasionally being struck by a passing ship, however their scattered behavior makes it difficult to identify any consistent threats.
Pollution and environmental changes may also play a role in threatening the lives of the North Pacific right whale.
It is assumed that these marine mammals may be prayed upon by large sharks and groups of killer whales.
Due to their small size it is believed that the adults face no real threats while newborn and young whales may be occasionally attacked by killer whales and/or sharks.
Aside from these animals humans are still considered the primary threat to the North Pacific right whale.
During the whaling era the North Pacific right whale was extensively hunted and thousands of right whales were killed which has led to a large decrease in the right whale population.
These marine mammals are now protected and considered extremely endangered.
Numerous conservation efforts have been put into place to assist with preventing further decline in numbers and to prevent interference from commercial boats, habitat degradation and other factors that may affect current populations.
Unfortunately the re-population status of these whales remains unknown as there are so few North Pacific right whales alive today.
These small population numbers make it difficult for researchers to predict possible recovery trends as these whales may have difficulty finding mating partners and/or growing their population quickly enough to prosper.