| Northern right whales were hunted for at least 800 years, until they became so rare that it was no longer commercially viable to hunt them. Biology made them and southern right whales the "right" whales to hunt, especially when whaling was less sophisticated than it is today. They are absolutely massive, weighing up to 100 tons in a package less than 20 m long. Their bodies provide lots of oil and high quality baleen. They are slow swimmers, often found in coastal waters, and they float when killed, so they were easy to chase, kill, and tow to port. Now numbering only in the hundreds, and showing no signs of recovery, northern right whales are nearly extinct. Some populations have not shown any significant reproduction, even after becoming protected by law. Northern right whales live long lives: some animals have been studied for years and one was known to be at least 67 years old when she was seen in 1992. They skim-feed on small marine crustaceans.
The North Atlantic right whale differs in skin color from the North Pacific right whale and the cold waters of the Arctic Circle are a natural impediment to the mingling of these two groups.
Also known as:
Biscayan Right Whale
up to 18 m
Linnaeus, C., 1758. Systema Naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classis, ordines, genera, species cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tenth Edition, Laurentii Salvii, Stockholm, 1:75, 824 pp.
Mammal Species of the World
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