What's the Wellington whale like? Five facts about the southern right whale

  • 07/07/2018
The Wellington whale.
The Wellington whale. Photo credit: NIWA

Wellington has been transfixed by a whale for several days since it appeared frolicking in the harbour.

Aside from the fact it is a southern right whale, not much is known about it, including whether it is a he or a she.

Newshub has compiled a few fun facts for whale watchers though, without going into specifics.

Here are five fun facts about the southern right whale:

1. They're huge.

They are not as big as a blue whale, but certainly a lot larger than many other coastal species like the humpback whale.

Fully grown, one can reach up to 18 metres long and weigh around 23,000kg. That's the equivalent of 17.5 2019 Toyota corollas.

2. They have big heads.

A southern right whale's head is bigger than other whales and can make up to a quarter or a third of their entire body. On a big one that could be 4.5 to six metres.

3. They have record-breaking testicles.

It's believed one testicle from a right whale can weigh up to 453 kilograms.

They're believed to be the largest found on any known animal.

4. They don't have any teeth.

Right whales are baleen whales, which don't have any teeth but instead large bristles.

They use the bristles to filter out food like krill from the oceans. Despite their huge size, the right whale eats tiny food - most of their prey only reaches around two centimetres long.

5. They're rare.

Slightly macabre, but the right whale got its name from whalers because they were the "right" whale to kill.

They have lots of blubber on them, which makes them float and produces high yields of oil. Whalers loved it and decimated the population down to at one point only 30 whales.

Things are on the up again now, but the population has severe inbreeding issues, and in New Zealand boasts one of the least genetically diverse populations in the world.