Right whales aren’t one of the better-known whales. They aren’t as charismatic as humpbacks or orcas, or as ginormous as blue whales. One story about where they got their name is that they were the “right whale” for whalers – not only are they coastal and slow-moving, but they float when they’re dead, which is a useful characteristic if you’re trying to manage their carcass from a ship.
The main thing I knew about right whales before I started to interview people about them yesterday was that they get hit by ships. North Atlantic right whales migrate up and down the coast of the Eastern U.S. and ships go in and out of the Eastern U.S., so they’re pretty much doomed to cross paths. And I’m sure most ships’ captains don’t want to kill whales. Today I wrote a story for ScienceNOW about one of the reasons why right whales get hit by ships. Read it here.