Southern Right Whale

The southern right whale is a baleen whale and belongs to the group known as Cetacea which includes whales, dolphins and porpoises.

This whale makes up one of three species within the right whale family.

The other two are the north Atlantic right whale and the north pacific right whale.

The southern right whale can be found swimming between the southern hemisphere and near Antarctica.

Currently all three species of right whale are considered endangered

Physical Characteristics and Appearance

At full maturity the southern right whale can grow up to 50 feet long and weigh as much as 60 tons.

When compared to other whale species their head is rather large and encompasses roughly 1/4 – 1/3 of the whales entire body.

Their body is fairly large and rotund and is widest around the center area but tapers down towards the rear flukes.

Swimming is conducted using a pair of short wide pectoral fins which help the whale steer as it swims through the water.

The rear flukes which help propel the whale forward through the ocean is long and tapered back at both ends to allow the whale to maintain its efficiency while swimming.

Unlike other whale species the southern right whale lack a dorsal fin.

In terms of color the southern right whale has dark grayish – black skin tone with white patches on its throat and belly.

They also have a series of callosities or calluses on various parts of their head and upper body.

When it comes to dentation these marine mammals (as with all baleen whales) lack the presence of teeth, but are equipped with baleen plates that have bristles attached to them which allows these whales to filter their prey from the water as they swim through the ocean.

When observed from the side the mouth is slightly arched and bow-shaped in appearance.

Diet and Hunting Methods

The primary diet of southern right whales consists of copepods, krill, mysids and plankton among other tiny crustaceans.

These whales are skimmers and can be seen swimming at or near the surface of the water when hunting for food.

On occasion they will also dive into deep waters as well in search of prey.

They hunt their prey by swimming with their mouth open and trapping their prey in their baleen bristles while also filtering water out of their mouth.

Generally these whales are found hunting in high latitude areas where the cold water supplies large amounts of nutrient rich foods such as krill and plankton.

Habitat and Migration

Southern right whales are found swimming in the southern hemisphere.

During feeding season these whales can be found swimming in colder waters in and around the Antarctic region.

When the weather cools down and mating season begin they migrate towards the equator to mate and give birth.

These whales can be seen traveling in a variety of different locations such as Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, South Africa and Uruguay.

Social Structure and Communication

Southern right whales are a fairly active species that can be found performing numerous activities such as breaching and sailing.

In addition to being active they are also very social with other whales and dolphin and are known to approach boats and vessels in order to observe them and the people one the boats.

When interacting with humans or other animals these marine mammals appear to be thoughtful and aware of their large size as they limit their active behavior when around humans and other small marine animals so that they do not injure them.

This can be seen when a human is observed swimming next to the whale.

These Marianne mammals will make a conscious effort not to do anything that could cause harm to that person.

When it comes to mating these whales are polygamous animals and females may have as many as 7 partners.

Male whales do not typically fight with one another or show jealousy when it comes to mating.

Reproduction and Lifespan

The average gestation period for southern right whales (the period from conception to birth) is about 12 months.

Female whales will produce a single offspring every 3 – 4 years.

After birth the baby southern right whale is nursed and cared for by its mother.

Nursing generally lasts for about 6 months and involves the mother giving its child milk which the child suckles from her nipples.

Sexual maturity is usually reached between 9 – 11 years for females which is around the time they begin to mate and reproduce.

While it is difficult to establish a solid lifespan for southern right whales estimates point to an average lifespan between 50 – 100 years.


The southern right whale is known to face a number of threats throughout various parts of the southern hemisphere.

Some of these threats may include being hit by passing ships or large vessels in highly commercial areas, potential health hazards from chemical pollution which can affect their food supply or harm the whale directly, aquatic constructions such as sewage plants, aquatic mining and ocean based oil refineries that can negatively impact the whales ecosystem and environment and numerous other issues from agricultural changes to global warming.

10 Interesting southern right whale facts

1) The scientific name for the southern right whale is, “Eubalaena australis”.

2) Because the southern right whale is a marine mammal it produces milk, gives birth, is warm-blooded and breathes air.

3) Despite their large size these marine mammals are sometimes attacked by killer whales and large sharks.

4) A fully grow southern right whale can weigh as much as 8 adult African elephants.

5) At over 1,000 lbs. per testicle the right whale is believed to have the largest testicles of any known animal.

6) With a lifespan of up to 100 years the southern right whale is one of the longest living species of cetacea.

The bowhead whale has the longest estimated lifespan with am estimated 200 year lifespan.

7) Due to their thick layer of blubber the southern right whale never crosses over the equator and into the northern hemisphere because their body is unable to handle the extreme heat.

8) With a head measuring up to 1/3 the length of its entire body the southern right whale has one of the largest heads of all the whale species.

9) Despite being massive marine animals the primary diet of the southern right whale consists of prey that measures less than 1 inch long; however there are a few species of krill that can grow to lengths of up to six inches.

10) These marine mammals are a protected species and hunting them in certain countries could lead to steep fines and/or jail time.