right whale

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right whale

right whale, name for whales of the family Balaenidae. They were so named by whalers, who for centuries considered them “the right whales” to hunt, because they float when killed and because they yield enormous quantities of oil and of baleen. Baleen, or whalebone, is the substance forming the fringed, triangular plates that hang from the roof of the whale's mouth and serve as a filter for plankton. It commanded such a high price in the 19th cent. that baleen whales (right whales and rorquals) were nearly exterminated by hunting. Right whales are distinguished from rorquals by the lack both of a dorsal fin and of neck furrows. Their girth is great in proportion to their length, and they have two thick pectoral fins. The lower jaws are scooplike in shape; the upper jaws contain about 300 baleen plates.

Right whales, also known as black right whales (genus Eubalaena), are usually black all over; some individuals have white undersides. Females, larger than males, average 45 to 60 ft (14–18 m) in length. There is an irregularly shaped, horny growth, called the bonnet, above the snout. It has no known function, other than possible intraspecific aggression, and accumulates an immense conglomeration of parasites. There are three species of right whales, inhabiting the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans and the Southern Hemisphere, respectively. The northern species, both of which are endangered, travel to the equator in winter, breeding on their way back to the poles. The bowhead whale, also known as the Greenland or Arctic right whale (Balaena mysticetus), remains near the ice front all year, following its seasonal advances and recessions. It is black with a white chin and often a white tail band; there is a bump on top of the head. Its baleen plates grow up to 13 ft (4 m) long, and it produces large quantities of oil. The 20-foot-long (6-m) pygmy right whale (Caperea marginata), found in the waters of the S Southern Hemisphere, is classified by some authorities in the family Neobalaenidae, and by others in Cetotheriidae. Right whales are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Cetacea.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Right Whale


(Eubalaena glacialis), a mammal of the family Balaenidae. The right whale may reach a length of 20 m and a weight of 100 tons. The edge of the lower jaw has scalloped protuberances. On the upper jaw there is a horny growth with “bonnets” formed from masses of cirripeds. The plates of the baleen, which are dark in color, may measure 2.6 m in length and number as many as 260 on each half of the upper jaw. The body is black, sometimes with white markings.

The right whale embraces three subspecies: the Biscayan (in northern temperate waters of the Atlantic), Japanese (in northern temperate waters of the Pacific), and Australian (in temperate waters of the southern hemisphere). The right whale feeds on small crustaceans. The young are born in winter and measure 4.5–6 m in length. Hunting of the right whale is prohibited.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

right whale

any large whalebone whale of the family Balaenidae. They are grey or black, have a large head, and, in most, no dorsal fin, and are hunted as a source of whalebone and oil
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Hydrodynamic patterns associated with echelon formation swimming by feeding bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus).
Age and growth estimates of Bowhead Whales (Balaena mysticetus) via aspartic acid racemization.
Whales have a rather wide range of values of [C.sub.E], larger for the hydrodynamically "better shaped" animals; for example, the sei whale Balaenoptera borealis has approximately 10 times greater capacity-efficiency factor than the bowhead whale Balaena mysticetus. The main predator of whales--the killer whale Orcinus orca--has approximately twice as large a value of [C.sub.E] as the sei whale and comes close to the characteristics of its relative, the bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus.
Having hunted these whales for centuries, the Inupiat are keen observers of the bowhead (Balaena mysticetus).
These first hunters caught up to 16 ft (5 m) long belugas (Delphinapterus leucas) and narwhals (Monodon monoceros), but also hunted the slow-moving 46-57 ft (14-17.5 m) long bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) when they cruised close to the ice and, in the north Pacific, the gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus).
This means that biological factors will not be the only considerations determining whether species such as the Peary (Rangifer tarandus pearyi) and woodland Caribou and the bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus), species that are an important part of aboriginal hunting traditions in northern Canada, and marine species such as the Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) and the Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) which are economically important to the people of eastern Canada, are listed.
A history of sea ice in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago based on postglacial remains of the Bowhead Whale (Balaena mysticetus).
Key words: bowhead whale; Balaena mysticetus; beluga whale; Delphinapterus leucas; Arctic; Beaufort Sea; habitat; aerial survey; feeding
Productivity and behavior of bowheads, Balaena mysticetus, and white whale, Delphinapterus leucas, as determined from remote sensing.
(1997) estudiaron ejemplares de Balaena mysticetus y son concordantes con la disposicion de las caras en Pontoporia blainvillei, sin embargo estos autores utilizaron, ademas, los nombres de caras diafragmatica y esternocostal para las caras atrial y auricular.
Bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) growth and feeding as estimated by [delta][sup.13]C techniques.