Southern right whale

Southern right whale
Southern right whale (Photo: Mandy McKendrick)

Scientific name: Eubalaena australis

Physical description and related species

Southern right whales are medium to large baleen whales. Like others of this family, the females tend to be slightly larger than males. They have no dorsal fin, a distinctly V-shaped blow and white/grey cornified growths on the head, known as callosities. They may live to 60 or more years of age.

Distribution

Australian southern right whales migrate seasonally between higher and mid latitudes. They are regularly present on the Australian coast from about mid-May to mid-November.

Threats

Right whale numbers were critically low at the beginning of the 20th century following a brief but very intense period of hunting in the southern hemisphere from the early 19th century. Whalers considered the species the 'right' whales to kill – they swam slowly, often near the shoreline, provided a great quantity of oil, and floated when dead.

The southern right whale is listed as endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999 (EPBC Act), which outlines the measures necessary to ensure recovery of the Australian population of these whales.

Conservation status: least concern

Diet and feeding

Southern right whales feed mostly on krill, in off-shore waters.

This page was last modified on 12 August 2010.