Southern Right Whale

About the Species


∙ The southern right whale is readily distinguished from others by the callosities on its  head, a broad back without a dorsal fin, and a long arching mouth that begins above  the eye. Its skin is very dark grey or black, occasionally with some white patches on  the belly. 

∙ They have a lifespan of about 70 years 

∙ They can grow up to 17 meters long and up to 19,800kg. 

∙ Right whales are individually identified by the unique pattern of callosities on their heads. 

∙ They feed just beneath the water’s surface, holding their mouths partly open and  skimming water continuously while swimming. They strain the water out through their  long baleen plates to capture their prey, mainly zooplankton. 

Habitat and distribution: 

∙ Southern right whales spend their summers feeding in the sub-Antarctic (Southern  Ocean) 

∙ During spring and fall they travel between their feeding and breeding areas

∙ By winter they can be found off the coast of Western Australia, Southern Australia,  Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales 

∙ Migration works in an anti-clockwise circle, moving from sub-antarctic feeding  grounds to south-eastern Australia and then west to have calves in southern and  western Australia 


∙ Breeding grounds are low-latitude 

∙ Calves are usually 4-6 meters at birth and fully weaned at one year.  

∙ Female southern right whales reproduce every three to five years 


∙ Use baleens to eat copepods and krill 

∙ Feed in high latitude areas

Literature Reviews

  • Chalcobsky, Crespo, E. A., & Coscarella, M. A. (2020). Short-term effects of whale watching boats on the movement patterns of southern right whales in Península Valdés, Patagonia, Argentina. Marine Environmental Research, 157, 104927–104927.
  • Pires Renault‐Braga, Rejane Groch, K., Carvalho Flores, P. A., Secchi, E. R., & Dalla‐Rosa, L. (2018). Area usage estimation and spatiotemporal variability in distribution patterns of southern right whales, Eubalaena australis, of southern Brazil. Marine Ecology (Berlin, West), 39(3), e12506–n/a.
  • Nielsen, Bejder, L., Videsen, S. K. A., Christiansen, F., & Madsen, P. T. (2019). Acoustic crypsis in southern right whale mother-calf pairs: infrequent, low-output calls to avoid predation? Journal of Experimental Biology, 222(13), jeb190728–.
  • Rayment, Dawson, S., & Webster, T. (2015). Breeding status affects fine-scale habitat selection of southern right whales on their wintering grounds. Journal of Biogeography, 42(3), 463–474.
  • D’Agostino, Degrati, M., Santinelli, N., Sastre, V., Dans, S. L., & Hoffmeyer, M. S. (2018). The seasonal dynamics of plankton communities relative to the foraging of the southern right whale (Eubalaena australis) in northern Patagonian gulfs, Península Valdés, Argentina. Continental Shelf Research, 164, 45–57.

Areas of Collaboration

  • Differences in environmental and anthropogenic pressure between this species and the northern right whale that would explain their unprecedented population decline
  • Krill studies to determine reasons for reproductive success
  • Building on previous knowledge of acoustic repertoire i.e. Occurrence of lower frequency calls between mother and calf to avoid predation 
  • Categorisation of communication types into blow sounds, slaps and calls
  • Site fidelity studies using GIS mapping