June 21, 2024

Observation of a Right Whale (Eubalaena glacialis) Birth in the Coastal Waters of the Southeast United States


Monica A. Zani, Jessica K. D. Taylor, and Scott D. Kraus


Abstract: The coastal waters of the southeast United States between Brunswick, Georgia, and Cape Canaveral, Florida, is the only known calving ground for the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis). On 1 January 2005, during the New England Aquarium research team’s standard aerial survey, a single right whale was observed at the surface 17 nmi east of the northern tip of Talbot Island, Florida. While circling over the whale to obtain photographs for individual identification, observers noticed a red coloration visible in the water around the whale that looked like blood. The water around the whale’s belly, side, and flukes was clearly red, but the color was dispersing quickly due to the thrashing behavior of the whale. After 3 min and 37 s of observation, a calf appeared to the side of the adult. The calf had no visible cyamid coverage on the head, body, or flukes. The flukes appeared to be slightly limp and curled under at both tips. The mother lifted the calf to the surface on her back. As the mother rose to the surface, the calf was draped limply over her body. The calf rolled off the mother’s back into the water and began to swim next to the mother. The event described here is the first known observation of behaviors that have been interpreted as a birth of a right whale calf.

Key Words: Right whale, Eubalaena glacialis, birth, calf, cetacean, reproduction

Document Type: Research article

DOI: 10.1578/AM.34.1.2008.21

Page Numbers: 21-24

Info SKU: Vol__34__Iss__1__Zani_et_al Category: