Paraphrasing the article:
They are one of the world's most endangered animals. Only about 400 now survive in the North Atlantic - 10 percent of that total are now feeding in the state's coastal waters.
Did you see them yourself, k?
(I think you said on another thread you were heading for Cape Cod on the weekend)
This must have caused a lot of excitement for the locals!
Tried youtube to see if there video of the occasion but the most recent one was from 2008:
Mon 12 Apr, 2010 04:25 pm
MsO, I am going this weekend to the Cape. I have been reading up. Last year was a record year for Northern Right Whale births. Their numbers are steadily growing here in the Massachusetts coastal waters. Below is a link to the team that does most of the research out there (that I know of). When we go on whale watch cruises, we go with them.
There's a great spot in the Great Australian Bight where you can sit and feel like you could reach out and touch 'em.
Mon 12 Apr, 2010 08:29 pm
I went on a whale watch once. While the sea was churned up and I was seasick, I did see a whale surface next to the boat. What a thrill.
But the bigger thrill was seeing a school of Atlantic White sided dolphins. The on-board biologist was so excited and said they are very rare animals. They resemble orcas. The adults swam in a circle around the babies, who frolicked and gamboled like lambs, leaping in and out of the water. The babies were so adorable. These animals reminded me of the legend of Manahan MacLeir, the Irish god of the sea whose abode is the Isle of Man who is the mythic antecedent of Shakespeare's King Lear. Manahan's cattle were fish and dolphins pulled his chariot.
Genetic evidence demonstrates that the northern and southern populations have not interbred for between 3 million and 12 million years, confirming that the Southern Right Whale is a distinct species. More surprising was the discovery that the northern hemisphere Pacific and Atlantic populations are also distinct, and that the Pacific species (now known as the North Pacific Right Whale) is more closely related to the Southern Right Whale than to the North Atlantic Right Whale. While Rice continued to list two species in his 1998 classification, Rosenbaum et al. disagreed in 2000 and Brownell et al. in 2001. In 2005, Mammal Species of the World listed three species, indicating a shift to this conclusion.
Whale lice, parasitic cyamid crustaceans that live off skin debris, offer further information through their own genetics. Because these lice reproduce much more quickly than whales, their genetic diversity is greater. Marine biologists at the University of Utah examined these louse genes and determined that their hosts split into three species 5"6 million years ago, and that these species were all equally abundant before whaling began in the 11th century. The communities first split because of the joining of North and South America. The heat of the equator then created a second split, into northern and southern groups. "This puts an end to the long debate about whether there are three [Eubalaena] species of right whale. They really are separate beyond a doubt", Jon Seger, the project's leader, told BBC News.
Tue 13 Apr, 2010 05:03 am
From The Whaling Times:
The southern right whale is similar to the northern right whale and has a very broad tail and flippers, is large and rotund, with an arched mouth line. It is dark grey or black in colour and also has white patches on its underside. It has callosities around the areas that you would expect a human to have hair around their head, although between these two right whale the pattern that the callosities make is slightly different. The head of the southern right whale can measure up to a third of its body.
From the Nat'l Oceanic and Atmospheric Organization:
[Northern] Right whales are large baleen whales. Adults are generally between 45 and 55 feet (13.7-16.7 m) in length and can weigh up to 70 tons (140,000 lbs; 63,502 kg). Females are larger than males. Calves are 13-15 feet (3.9-4.6 m) in length at birth.
Distinguishing features for right whales include a stocky body, generally black coloration (although some individuals have white patches on their undersides), lack of a dorsal fin, a large head (about 1/4 of the body length), strongly bowed margin of the lower lip, and callosities (raised patches of roughened skin) on the head region. Two rows of long (up to eight feet in length) dark baleen plates hang from the upper jaw, with about 225 plates on each side. The tail is broad, deeply notched, and all black with a smooth trailing edge.
I'm spoiled - my friend is a marine biologist who studies whales in the area - so I can go on whale watches all the time (free of charge). We've seen some great ones. They are incredible creatures.
Fri 23 Apr, 2010 01:36 pm
There was just a great piece on the right whales on Radio Boston which is carried by WBUR (an NPR affiliate). You get the whole show at the link below. I think the Right Whale segment is in the middle.