North Atlantic Right Whale Mysteries

As originally posted on New England Ocean Odyssey, Jan 14, 2013.

North Atlantic right whales – our critically endangered New England natives – are making more waves this week in the news. A mother and calf, like the ones Brian photographed above, were spotted off the coast of Plymouth, MA on Saturday. For an imperiled population of less than 500 individuals, in which every animal counts, this birth is a great thing. But the timing of the mother’s return to the Gulf of Maine with her calf is extremely curious. Our right whales head south to have their calves, and don’t usually return until April, possibly to take advantage of spring plankton blooms. These two are among the growing ranks of right whales who buck tradition and turn up early. This particular pair is so early that scientists have called it “mind-blowing.” What’s going on? Scientists are still investigating these early arrivals, and have speculated that the whales are simply following the food, which may be available at different times in our warming ocean. We’ll keep you posted as they work to unravel the mystery and, hopefully, help these endangered whales recover.

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