Tricks to recognize a Southern Right Whale

Southern Right Whale

Length adult: 14 -16m (with females larger than males).


Right whales are hard to confuse with other large whales.

20150727_04_MA-RE-I_FB_EV_IMG_0554 (EVermeulen)


Dark with white ventral patch. There are variations in pigmentation patterns, brindle animals are usually male. Some animals have grey patterns and are usually female.

20150727_04_MA-RE-I_FB_EV_IMG_0360 (EVermeulen)

Dorsal fin

No dorsal fin.

Pectoral fin

Broad and rectangular.


Large head covered in white, irregular growths (callosities).

20120429_B-IMG_0062 (VMukena)

The callosities are distributed over the head in a distinct pattern, and they are used to identify individuals.


Smooth concave trailing edge, distinct central notch.


Typically, 1-3 min at surface preparing to dive, sinks head first. Slow swimmers (average 1.7 km/hr, max 3.6km/hr).

Group size

Often solitary.


Present mostly during winter months on most of the South African coast, but can be found year round off the West Coast.

20120429_A-IMG_0300 (TGridley) 2

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About seasearchafrica

The Sea Search group is a collective of scientists and students with a strong academic background in the area of marine mammal science. Our primary focus is the production of peer-reviewed scientific research and student training. We also provide specialist consultancy services and work with industry and government to promote conservation through effective management.

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