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Southern Right Whale

Eubalaena australis
The Southern Right Whale (Eubalaena australis) is a baleen whale, that is, a species of the suborder Mysticeti, which in stead of teeth have long narrow plates with fringes of bristles on each side of the upper jaw.

The Southern Right Whale is black or dark brown with white patches on their undersides. It has long broad flippers, a broad back with no fin and raises its tail flukes raised when diving.

The whale has a head one-quarter of its overall body length, small eyes and an arched mouth line with a dark bow-shaped lower jaw that has up to 300 hairs on its tip. It has two blowholes and blows in a wide “V” shape up to 5m in height.

The whale is easily distinguished by large callosities (growths) on its head, especially on the jaws. These callosities are coloured white, yellow, orange or pink by sea lice that live on them.

At birth, calves of the Southern Right Whale weigh about a tonne and are between 4.5 and 6 metres in length. Adults can grow to between 11 and 17 metres long and weigh between 30 and 80 tonnes. Females of the species are usually slightly larger than males.

The whales usually live in small groups of between 3 to 12 animals, and feed on krill and other crustaceans by swimming slowly with their mouth open.

Southern Right Whales are usually found in latitudes between 20° and 55° but have been encountered as far south as 63°.

Whalers came to name them “Right Whales” because they were "right" whales to hunt, being rich in blubber, relatively slow swimmers and thus easy to kill, and because when killed they floated.


Prepared by: Turnbull, P.
Created: 6 November 2001
Modified: 1 December 2001

Published by South Seas, 1 February 2004
Comments, questions, corrections and additions: Paul.Turnbull@jcu.edu.au
Prepared by: Paul Turnbull
Updated: 28 June 2004
To cite this page use: http://nla.gov.au/nla.cs-ss-biogs-P000126

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