Weighing up to 70 tons, I’m one of the world’s largest animals! I think bigger is definitely better (not that I’m biased or anything). I am a baleen whale, like blue whales and humpbacks, meaning I filter my food through a huge plate of flexible material made of keratin (the same material that makes up your hair and fingernails). I’m a skim feeder, so I move slowly through the ocean with my mouth open to filter plankton through the baleen. You might be able to recognize me by the callosities around my head, which are raised patches of thickened skin that are often covered by crustaceans known as whale lice.
Unfortunately, I was a pretty popular target in the whaling industry. People began hunting me as early as the 10th century! I’m a slow mover and like to hang out close to land, which made me an easy target for whalers. I also happen to float after I die, which makes it easier for whalers to spot me and haul me onboard. I even got my name because I was the “right” type of whale to hunt. Thankfully, we right whales have been protected since the 1930s, but there are still less than 500 of us left in the western North Atlantic.
Did You Know?
I’m a big guy, and can eat up to 5,500 pounds of food a day!
I’m pretty friendly, and am not really scared by boats. Unfortunately, this sometimes gets me in trouble: I’m particularly susceptible to ship collisions and entanglement in fishing gear. Scientists suspect that at least 72 percent of all right whales have been entangled at some point in their lives, and that 10-30 percent of us are entangled every year! Thankfully, stakeholders in U.S. and Canada are working together to try to minimize human impacts on us.
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