To see photographs of the Gray Whale (Eschrichtius robustus)
Whale (Eschrichtius robustus)
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Taxonomic name: Eschrichtius robustus
Other Common Names: Grey Whale.
The Gray Whale is the
sole species in the Eschrichtiidae family.
are born at 4.9 meters and grow to 15 meters and 35 tonnes.
This species is only found in the northern hemisphere with most being
in the eastern Pacific. The Atlantic stock is now extinct due to over
hunting with the western Pacific stock extremely rare.
The Gray Whale (Eschrichtius robustus) is easily identified having such
a narrow range and a unique appearance. This whale is a mottled grey,
hence its common name, with a pockmarked and blotched appearance. The
dorsal surface from snout to tail has various amounts of encrusting barnacles
and whale lice. Calves are generally darker in appearance.
In profile the snout has a hooked, beak-like outline with an arched mouth.
When viewed from above the snout is very narrow, expanding to close to
the whales maximum width at the eyes. The upper surface of the snout
is pitted with small depressions which contain sensitive hairs. The dorsal
fin is, at best, a low hump set 2/3 of the way down the back followed
by a ridge of knuckle-like bumps leading to the broad, 3 meter wide tail
flukes which are raised above the surface prior to a dive. The body is
generally heavy and robust (as indicated by the scientific name) with
broad pectoral fins and 2-5 deep creases on the throat instead of the
mass of pleats found on the Rorqual whales.
Gray Whales undergo an autumn migration from the arctic to their winter
breeding grounds in various bays in the Mexican Baja peninsula. Surface
activity includes breaching and spy-hopping. There is a substantial tourist
industry around the migration route and breeding lagoons where tourists
are able to touch some individuals known as friendlies which
approach boats. In contrast to this during the whaling years Gray Whales
were called Devilfish due to the fierce protection of their
calves which were harpooned by the whalers in order to target their mothers.
Feeding consists of sifting crustaceans, known as mysids, from above and
within the silty seabed. Most are right handed preferring
to scoop up mud and seawater containing the mysids on their right hand
side. As a result the baleen and skin on the right hand side is more worn.