Skip to main content
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, North American Mammals

place holder

  Cetacea · Eschrichtiidae · Eschrichtius robustus

Search the Archive
 • Species Name
 • Family Tree
 • Conservaton Status
Collections
 • Skulls
 • Bones and Teeth
Field Guide
 • Map Search
   Including search by
     • Location
     • Ecoregion
     • Species
     • National Park
 • About Maps
dotted line
   Glossary
   Teacher Resources
   About the Site
dotted line
Smithsonian Institution
Copyright Notice
Privacy Notice
 

Eschrichtius robustus



Gray Whale



Order: Cetacea
Family: Eschrichtiidae

Image of Eschrichtius robustus
Eschrichtius robustus - upper insets show spray pattern, spy hopping, and whale louse and barnacle; lower inset, bottom feeding
Click to enlarge. (47 kb)

Conservation Status: Least Concern.


Gray whales are bottom feeders. They roll to one side and lower the lip to scour and siphon the bottom for tiny crustaceans, especially amphipods known as "sand fleas." They have small, thick, widely-placed baleen plates for screening food from the water. Now found only in the North Pacific, records and bony remains suggest they once lived in waters off the eastern seaboard of the United States and across the Atlantic near England, Sweden, and the Netherlands. Known as long distance travelers, they migrate north along the West Coast for the summer, and south again for the winter, where they calve in the shallows off Baja California. In 1994 the gray whale was removed from the endangered species list. Estimated population size in 1988 was about 21,000 individuals, and growing. Killer whales are the only animals known to attack them.

Also known as:
California Gray Whale, Korean Gray Whale

Length:
Range: 11.1-14.3 m males; 11.7-15 m females

Weight:
Range: 15,700-33,800 kg

References:

Lilljeborg 1861.  Forh. Skand. Naturf. Ottende Mode, Kopenhagen, 1860, 8:602 [1861].

Links:

Mammal Species of the World (opens in a new window).

Distribution of Eschrichtius robustus

Image of Eschrichtius robustus
Click to enlarge. (71kb)