Caperea marginatapygmy right whale

Geographic Range

The pygmy right whale is found only in a narrow band of waters near the South Pole. The band circles Antarctica, covering area in both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.


Pygmy right whales live in a pelagic aquatic habitat, in the cool to cold ocean waters surrounding Antarctica.

Physical Description

The pygmy right whale is 5-6 meters in length. Distinguishing features include a small dorsal fin situated far back, and two throat grooves. Each of these features is uncharacteristic for all species of right whale, except the pygmy right whale.

  • Average mass
    4500 kg
    9911.89 lb


Little is known about the reproductive habits of the pygmy right whale. A mother bears one young per birth. If the reproductive habits of pygmy right whales resemble those of other right whales, one can infer that gestation period is probably about 10-12 months.

  • Average number of offspring
  • Range gestation period
    10 to 12 months
  • Range weaning age
    6 to 12 months

The offspring stay with their mother until weaning, which may take place at 6 months to one year of age.

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female


Very little is known about the behavior of the pygmy right whale. Because they have not been observed at length at all, their social behavior is very much a mystery. On one occasion, a group of 8 whales was sighted; it may be that these animals were group/family living. Other right whales live in small family groups, and it is very possible that this is also true for the pygmy right whale.

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

The pygmy right whale, like most smaller baleen whales, feeds on krill. Its huge mouth takes in massive quantities of water and then filters the krill out through baleen plates, spitting the krill-free water out.

  • Primary Diet
  • carnivore
    • eats non-insect arthropods
  • Animal Foods
  • aquatic crustaceans

Conservation Status

The pygmy right whale is so rare and unstudied, we don't even know how rare it is. There is no accurate count of pygmy right whales.

Other Comments

The pygmy right whale is the smallest known baleen whale.


Sarah Cover (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.


Atlantic Ocean

the body of water between Africa, Europe, the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), and the western hemisphere. It is the second largest ocean in the world after the Pacific Ocean.

World Map

Pacific Ocean

body of water between the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), Australia, Asia, and the western hemisphere. This is the world's largest ocean, covering about 28% of the world's surface.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


a method of feeding where small food particles are filtered from the surrounding water by various mechanisms. Used mainly by aquatic invertebrates, especially plankton, but also by baleen whales.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


uses touch to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.


"US Fish and Wildlife Service" (On-line). Accessed December 13, 1999 at

"World Wildlife Fund" (On-line). Accessed December 13, 1999 at

Parker, ed., S. 1990. Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals Volume 4. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc.