Southern right whale

Southern right whales are one of the biggest mammals inhabiting on the planet. Even with their bodies adapted to live on an aquatic environment, they are warm blooded, breath air through their lungs, give birth and breastfeed their calves with warm milk, as with humans. A powerful caudal fin propels their body in the water, though their upper limbs have disappeared.

Scientifically known as Eubalaena australis, southern right whales belong to the Mysticeti suborder (baleen whales), which together with whales, dolphins and porpoises constitute the Cetacean order. Located from 20° to 64° latitude in the southern hemisphere, they have migration habits traveling from breeding to feeding areas.

During the calving period, the different whale populations visit the coasts of South America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. They arrive at Península Valdés’ coasts, province of Chubut, in March or April, finding in its quiet gulfs the propitious waters for reproduction, breeding and calving. At the end of the spring they migrate towards feeding areas, as in the case of Península Valdés’ population which could be found near the South Georgia islands.

The whale’s anatomy is featured mostly by callosities, toughened skin patches on the top and sides of the head. The pattern is unique for each individual, and therefore it is used by researchers to identify each animal, as if it were a fingerprint. Although callosities are grey- coloured, they look white because they are covered by thousands of whitish Cyamidae.

In spite of the fact that whales are nowadays a protected species, their global population is still undersized, with an estimate of around 18,000 individuals. The population that arrives at Península Valdés has been estimated in more than 5,000 in 2007 –one of the biggest groups now existing. Southern hemisphere populations are increasing but still the North Atlantic Right Whale is facing serious conservation issues, with only 350 live animals.

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