Whales will be right back

Right whales were given their name because they were the “right whale” to hunt. For perhaps the same reason, they’re also one of the best whales for making puns.

But puns, unlike hunting, didn’t nearly drive them to extinction. Thankfully, they’re now starting to show signs of recovery, with increasing numbers of Southern Right Whales returning to Australian and New Zealand waters.

Southern Right Whale surfacing, showing barnacles on its head
Southern Right Whale surfacing, showing the callosities, or barnacles, on its head that can be used to identify individuals (photo from Macquarie University)

Professor Rob Harcourt, who we spoke to recently on Lost in Science, has been tracking these remnant populations that are returning from their breeding waters in the sub-Antarctic. His DNA research has shown that there are in fact genetically distinct populations in New Zealand, Western Australia and off the east coast.

Read more about Rob’s work at Macquarie University. Or, you can read the story of his encounter with deadly “seal finger”, from Enough Rope with Andrew Denton.


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