North Atlantic Right Whale

photo of North Atlantic Right Whale

Photo credit: NOAA/NMFS


Common Name: North Atlantic Right Whale

Scientific Name: Eubalaena glacialis

Length as an adult:  52 ft (16 m)

Weight as an adult: 77 tons (69 kg)

Length and Weight at birth: 12ft (3.5 m) 1 ton (0.9 kg)

Length of Pregnancy: 12 months

Range: East coast of North America from Newfoundland to Florida; a population that existed off Iceland and northern Europe is now thought extinct

Likelihood of being seen on a whale watch in Massachusetts coastal waters: It’s very rare to see them but it’s more often to see them early spring

Preferred Food: zooplankton, especially copepods

Unusual Characteristics: They have raised, hardened patches of skin known as callosities. Each callosity pattern is unique to the individual animal.

Appearance:  A large, mostly black whale with whitish patches on the head and belly, no dorsal fin, and a graceful, deeply notched "fluke," or has long, mustache-like fringes of baleen instead of teeth, which it uses to strain tiny animals from the water for food. Two blowholes on the top of its head give a distinctive v-shape to a right whale’s spout.

General Information: One of the most endangered marine mammals in the world. Once lived up to 50 to 70 years old, but whales born today have a life expectancy of approximately 15 years.

Unusual Habits: Right whales gather in ‘surface active groups’, large congregations of whales that interact very closely with one another.

Population Status: 500 individual right whales

Threats: Entanglement in fixed fish gear, ship collisions, climate and ecosystem change, and disturbance from whale watching boats


"North Atlantic Right Whales (Eubalaena Glacialis) – Office of Protected Resources – NOAA Fisheries." North Atlantic Right Whales (Eubalaena Glacialis) – Office of Protected Resources – NOAA Fisheries. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2014.

"Right Whale Listening Network." North Atlantic Right Whale, Quick Facts. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2014.

"Basic Facts About Right Whales." North Atlantic Right Whale. N.p., n.d.  Web. 13 Mar. 2014.

Carwardine, Mark. Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises. London: Dorling Kindersley, 1995. Print.


Prepared by: Josie Tilley, NBWM Apprentice 2014

Last modified: June 27, 2014