right whale

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Related to Great Whale: Grey Whale, Great Blue Whale

right whale,

name for whaleswhale,
aquatic mammal of the order Cetacea, found in all oceans of the world. Members of this order vary greatly in size and include the largest animals that have ever lived. Cetaceans never leave the water, even to give birth.
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 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.

The black right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) is usually black all over; some individuals have white undersides. The female, larger than the male, averages 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 subspecies of black right whales, inhabiting the N Atlantic and N Pacific oceans and the Southern Hemisphere, respectively. The northern populations travel to the equator in winter, breeding on their way back to the poles. The bowhead, 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) is found in the waters of Australia and New Zealand. (Some authorities place it in a separate family, Neobalaenidae.) All three species are rare and endangered. Right whales are classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Cetacea, family Balaenidae.

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.

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
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