Pygmy Right Whale
Caperea marginata
Population size
Life Span
20-80 years
kg lbs 
m ft 

The pygmy right whale (Caperea marginata ) may be a member of the cetotheres, a family of baleen whales, which until 2012 were thought to be extinct; C. marginata has otherwise been considered the sole member of the family Neobalaenidae. First described by John Edward Gray in 1846, it is the smallest of the baleen whales, ranging between 6 and 6.5 metres (20 and 21 ft) in length and 3,000 and 3,500 kilograms (6,610 and 7,720 lb) in mass. Despite its name, the pygmy right whale may have more in common with the gray whale and rorquals than the bowhead and right whales.

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The pygmy right whale is found in temperate waters of the Southern Hemisphere, and feeds on copepods and euphausiids. Little is known about its population or social habits. Unlike most other baleen whales, it has rarely been subject to exploitation.

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The smallest species of baleen whales, these cetaceans form a separate family. Due to lack of callosities on its skin and overall similarity with rorquals, Pygmy right whales are sometimes mistaken for Minke whales. As a matter of fact, Pygmy right whales are not 'right' whales. However, they are called so because of having a stocky body and bowed lower jaw with the arch, becoming more prominent as they age. The life span for this species is unknown. However, related baleen whales generally have a life span of 20-40 years, varying with each species, but can live up to 80 years.



Pygmy right whales are circumpolar species, found in the Southern Hemisphere, throughout the waters of Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, surrounding Antarctica. These pelagic creatures prefer living in cool to cold ocean waters.

Pygmy Right Whale habitat map

Climate zones

Pygmy Right Whale habitat map
Pygmy Right Whale
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Habits and Lifestyle

There is very little information on social behavior and habits of this species due to rarity of observations in the wild. The Pygmy right whales have been known to form groups of 80 individuals. However, they are generally solitary, travelling alone or in pairs. According to some evidence, they may inhabit coastal waters during the spring and summer months. Pygmy right whales do not show many behaviors, which are typical for whales. For example, unlike most whales, these cetaceans to not tend to breach, spyhop or show their flukes. When they come up to breathe, they usually remain at the surface for just a few seconds, sticking their snouts out of the water and then diving back into the ocean. During these surfacings, their white lower jaw and arched mouthline are clearly seen. These strong swimmers are capable of gaining high speed in short periods of time.

Diet and Nutrition

Pygmy right whale are carnivores. The diet of these cetaceans mainly consists of krill and copepods.

Mating Habits

10-12 months
1 calf
6 -12 months

There's little data on reproductive habits of these animals. However, they may have the same reproductive habits as other right whales: 10 - 12 months of gestation period, yielding a single young, which remains with its mother for 6 - 12 months, after which it's weaned.


Population threats

Anthropogenic threats to the population of this species have not been found. Pygmy right whales are likely to suffer from ocean pollution, which may negatively impact the health and habitat of these animals. The population size of Pygmy right whale is unknown, suggesting that the species either has a very small population or they are difficult to spot in the wild, since concentration of these whales have not yet been recorded.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of the Pygmy right whale is unknown for today, and this species is currently classified as Data Deficient (DD) on the IUCN Red List.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • According to some scientists, Pygmy right whale composes a separate family due to the unusual structure of its skeletal. Seventeen pairs of wide and flat ribs (this is more than in all other baleen whales) cover 2/3 of the animal's body length, stretching towards the tail.
  • The swimming technique of these cetaceans is also unique: in order to thrust through the water, they undulate not only their tails and flukes, but the whole body.
  • From time to time, whales come up to the water's surface, releasing air out of their blowhole and creating a stream of watery mist known as a “blow”. They sleep right below the surface so that their blowhole remains above the surface.
  • As Baleen whales, or otherwise called "toothless" whales, these cetaceans have plates of baleen instead of teeth: baleen, also known as 'whalebone', is a rather hard and solid substance, similar to matter of which the horns on some animals consist. When the animal forages, water passes through the baleen in its jaws and prey items get caught.
  • As mammals, whales suckle their offspring and breathe air just like we do. As opposed to fish, they can't breathe underwater, because they don't have gills. Hence, whales have to regularly come up to the water's surface to breathe, which they do through a special hole known as a 'blowhole', found on their back.
  • Moby Dick - a novel, written by Herman Melville in 1851 - is the most famous story about whales.

Coloring Pages


1. Pygmy Right Whale Wikipedia article -
2. Pygmy Right Whale on The IUCN Red List site -

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