What makes the right whale ‘right’?

Did you know that the right whale is called the right whale for the wrong reasons? This whale was historically considered the ‘right whale’ to hunt as it is composed of 40 percent blubber (whale fat). This fat was traditionally used to make essential items like soap, margarine and oil for lamps.

Today it is the rarest of all large whales found in the ocean. This is so, because from as early as the 10th century onwards, it has been hunted almost to the brink of extinction. Whale hunters targeted these whales for many reasons. For one they are slow – moving at the rate of 8 km/h. They often swim close to the shore and are friendly. They are easy to spot as they have two blowholes and the blow of a right whale is V-shaped, which can be seen miles away. They float after they are killed, instead of sinking like other whales, making it easier for the whalers to harvest their bodies.

This whale grows to 55 feet and weighs as much as 70 tons! It has a very large head (almost one-quarter of its body length) and roughened patches of skin called callosities on the top of its head. It has baleen plates instead of teeth in its mouth, which it uses to filter-feed on its favourite food – zooplankton, crustaceans and krill.

Rampant and unchecked hunting through the centuries led the right whale to the verge of extinction. Fortunately international sanctions were put in place by the 1970s to protect them and this whale species was saved. However, they are still commercially hunted by Japan, Finland and Iceland.

Other than humans the right whale is also hunted by orcas. It is listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ in the IUCN Red List.

Picture Credit : Google

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