Eubalaena australis   (Desmoulins,  1822) (Whale)
Organism information awaits expert curation
Class: Mammalia

Image copyrights: Doc White

Size: Southern right whale adults reach up to 17 m in length; females grow larger than males. These animals can reach weights of at least 100 t. Newborn animals are 4.5 to 6 m.

These stocky whales have extremely large heads, which can be over one-fourth of the body length. The mouthline is bowed and the rostrum is arched and very narrow when viewed from above. As is true for right and bowhead whales in general, there is no trace of a dorsal fin or ridge in the southern right whale. The flippers are fan-shaped, and the flukes are broad with smooth contours. All right whales have callosities on their heads, the largest of which is called the bonnet. These callosity patterns are individually distinctive and have been used by researchers in many areas to identify individuals.

Southern right whales are largely black, but some have white patches of variable shape and size on the belly and sometimes on the back. Colour variants have been noted; these include blue-black, light brown, and nearly white individuals. In addition to those on the callosities, whale lice are common in creases and folds on the bodies of southern right whales.

The 200 to 270 baleen plates per side are narrow and long, up to 3 m in length. The plates tend to be dark grey to black (some can be nearly white) and have fine grey to black fringes. The blow of the southern right whale is relatively short and V-shaped, making this species identifiable at a distance, if seen from ahead or behind.

Can be confused with: The southern right whale is the only whale in its range with a smooth, finless back and callosities; this should make misidentifications unlikely. From a distance the bushy, somewhat V-shaped blows of humpback whales can be mistaken for those of right whales. At close range, the 2 species are unmistakable.

Breeding: Most of the breeding in Argentina takes place in August and September, but mating has been observed in most months of the year. Male right whales have huge testes and long penises, 2 characteristics predicted in species in which males compete for females primarily through sperm competition, rather than by direct aggression.

Synonym (s)
Balaena antarctica Lesson, 1828
Balaena antipodum Gray, 1843
Balaena australis Desmoulins, 1822
Balaena capensis Gray, 1868
Balaena glacialis Mueller, 1776
Balaena glacialis australis Scheffer & Rice, 1963
Balaena hectori Gray, 1874
Balaena mysticetus antarcticus Schlegel, 1841
Eubalaena capensis Gray, 1866
Eubalaena glacialis australis Tomilin, 1962
Halibalaena britannica Gray, 1873
Hunterus temminckii Gray, 1864
Macleayius australiensis Gray, 1865

Common Name (s)
• Southern Right Whale (English)
Economic Importance and Threats
Threats:  Anthropogenic
(Whaling, entanglement in fishing gear, vessel collisions, and habitat destruction)

Prey:  Copepods and Krill
IUCN Status:  Least Concern


• Gujarat, Gulf of Kachchh (Lat: 22.6) (Long: 69.5) INDIA

Literature Source(s)
  • (2003) IUCN Red list of threatened species Available at -
  • Pillai, PKM and Augustine, SK (2000) A code list of common marine living resources of the Indian seas CMFRI Special Publication No.12 CMFRI 1-115 Available at -
  • Society for the Management of European Biodiversity Data (2009) World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) Available at -
  • Arkive: Images of life on earth Available at -
  • Jefferson, TA; Leatherwood, S and Webber, MA (2006) Marine mammals of the world World biodiversity database Available at -
  • Singh H.S (2003) Sea mammals in marine protected area in the Gulf of Kachchh, Gujarat State, India Indian Journal of Marine Science 258-262pp Available at -

Page last updated on:2012-11-06

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