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Right Whales

The Northern right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) for centuries was the "right whale" to capture. Hunters discovered that this whale was a slow swimmer, it floated when dead and it provided large amounts of oil and baleen, which made for a profitable hunt. Almost hunted to extinction, the right whale is now the most endangered marine mammal in U.S. waters.

The right whale uses finely fringed plates of baleen to strain the tiny animals it eats from the water. It has broad, short flippers under its chest, no dorsal fin and a wide tail that is usually raised high into the air before the whale begins a deep dive. The right whale is black or dark gray with distinctive callous growths, called "callosities," on its head. The largest of these callosities, which is found on the whales' snout, is called a bonnet.

One of the characteristics that scientists use to identify right whales is their v-shaped blow. Right whales inhale and exhale through two blow holes when they surface. The widely separated blow holes of the right whale produce a distinctive v-shaped blow.

Found off the northeastern coast of Florida during their winter calving season, the right whale and its calf are vulnerable to collisions with large ships traveling from port to port along the coast.

More Information:

Bureau of Protected Species Management

Florida Marine Research Institute

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