North Atlantic Right Whale - New Bedford Whaling Museum

North Atlantic Right Whale

North Atlantic Right Whale

Photo credit: NOAA/NMFS
Photo credit: NOAA/NMFS

Fact Sheet

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: 400 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: March 24, 2020