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Northern Right Whale Fact Sheet

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Northern right whales, one of the most endangered large whale species, are found primarily in the western North Atlantic and the northern Pacific. A few right whale characteristics:

• Right whales are playful and great leapers, throwing up to two-thirds of their 40-ton bodies out of the water.

• Crustaceans live on the thick, yellowish growths covering the whales' heads.

• Instead of teeth, right whales have baleen: elastic, fringed plates that hang from the upper jaw.

northern right whale

A rare sighting of a right whale in the southeastern Bering Sea. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Tynan and Richard Rowlett/NOAA-Northwest Fisheries Science Center.

• Right whales feed by swimming into dense swarms of crustaceans with their mouths open, trapping the food in the fine strands of baleen.

• They grow to be 45 to 50 feet long.

• They can live for more than 50 years.

• They give birth every three to five years, with pregnancies lasting about 12 months.

• They are born about 14 feet long, weigh 2,000 pounds, and nurse for about a year.