What are Right Whales?

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A recent study finds that female right whales may never breed after entanglement in fishing gear.

About Right Whales

  • Right whale, (family Balaenidae) is any of four species of stout-bodied whales having an enormous head measuring one-quarter to one-third their total body length.
  • While they differ genetically, and in conservation status, they do not differ significantly in their external appearance. 
  • From the 17th to 19th century, these whales were hunted for their oil and their strong, elastic baleen.
  • Because of the considerable economic value of these products, this cetacean gained its name because it was the “right whale” to take.
  • Adult right whales are generally between 45 and 52 feet in length and can weigh up to 70 tons.
  • When feeding, these whales swim slowly and use baleen to eat schools of small, shrimp-like crustaceans, called zooplankton.
  • Conservation Status:
    • Right whales were nearly exterminated by uncontrolled hunting, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) considers two of the four species as endangered. They have been completely protected by international agreement since 1946. 
    • Whereas at least 10,000 bowheads and approximately 13,000 southern right whales remain, northern right whales are rare, with North Atlantic right whales numbering only in the hundreds and North Pacific right whales numbering only slightly more.
    • The IUCN classifies the North Pacific right whale as an endangered species and the North Atlantic right whale as a critically endangered species.

Q1) What is zooplankton?

Zooplankton are small, aquatic microorganisms in the water column that include crustaceans, rotifers, open water insect larvae and aquatic mites. The zooplankton community is composed of both primary consumers, which eat free-floating algae, and secondary consumers, which feed on other zooplankton.

Source: Female right whales may never breed after entanglement in fishing gear: study