Eubalaena australis (Southern right  whale)

black right whale [English]; suidelike noordkaper [Afrikaans]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Synapsida (mammal-like reptiles) > Therapsida > Theriodontia >  Cynodontia > Mammalia (mammals) > Placentalia (placental mammals) > Laurasiatheria > Ferungulata > Cetartiodactyla (even-toed ungulates and cetaceans) > Whippomorpha > Cetacea (whales, dolphins and porpoises) > Family: Balaenidae (right whales)

Eubalaena australis (Southern right  whale)

Southern right whale breaching, St Helena Bay, West Coast, South Africa. [photo Jim Scarff ©]

Eubalaena australis (Southern right  whale) Eubalaena australis (Southern right  whale)

Southern right whale, Gansbaai, South Africa. [photos Trevor Hardaker ©]

Eubalaena australis (Southern right  whale)

Southern right whale. [Illustration Noel Ashton ©]


This is a large baleen whale whose length averages about 15 metres and whose adult mass is around 54,000 kilograms. The head alone consists of about 25% of the body length, and it has a long, narrow and highly arched upper jaw. It has no throat grooves. This animal has no dorsal fin or ridge along itís back and is smoothly rotund in shape. Southern Right Whales tend to have definitive callositic (a type of parasite), growths on the upper parts of their skulls. The patterns made by the callosities on the skin of the whale are used to help identify individual specimens from each other. Their colouration is predominantly black with distinct white patches.

The blow of this animal is characteristic in that it produces 2 distinct spouts in a V-shape about 5 meters high.

Distribution and habitat

They can be seen most prolifically between July and September along the Cape coast, particularly in False Bay, the Hermanus area and off the coast opposite de Hoop Nature Reserve.


They are surface feeders and move at about 4 kilometres per hour with their mouths open engulfing large quantities of planktonic crustaceans.


Their social group is normally a family unit that consists of less than 6 individuals. Mating occurs in early spring, with a single calf being born after a gestation period of 9 to 10 months. The calf suckles for a full year and spends two to three years in close proximity to itís mother.

Text by Derek Ohland

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