I had the pleasure this morning of learning about a species of beautiful marine mammals I had never heard of before. Along with this pleasure, however, was the unfortunate fact that I learned about these marine mammals only because they were found dead.
I had heard of northern right whales, and I had heard of dolphins, but I had never heard of northern right whale dolphins before. These dolphins are only related to right whales in as much as they are both cetaceans. Northern right whales are large baleen whales, and northern right whale dolphins are small toothed whales. When I call the dolphins small, that’s relative, of course. They’re actually larger than a human being, reaching almost ten feet in length. Northern right whale dolphins have a distinctive white patch on their bellies, and also are notable in that they lack a dorsal fin.
On Monday, five northern right whale dolphins were reported stranded on the shore of Santa Rosa Island in the Channel Islands National Park, off the coast of Southern California. Four of these dolphins were recovered, all dead. The fifth was not found.
I was unable to find any information about why these dolphins have received the name of right whale dolphins, though they don’t look much like right whales at all. In looking for more information about northern right whale dolphins, however, I came across many useful sites that provide information about the species, and will be of more general use to people interested in discovering more about the diversity of marine life. These resources include the Convention on Migratory Species, the MarineBio Society, and the Encyclopedia of Life.