[Updated January 7, 2022]

At the start of winter, pregnant North Atlantic right whales head to warmer Southeastern waters to give birth. This time of year, December through March, is known as calving season, where whales and their young can be seen gliding through the water, spurring optimism for this critically endangered marine animal.

With an estimated 336 whales left, researchers at the New England Aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life (ACCOL) are working diligently to learn more about and protect this species, from right whale biologists conducting research via boats and planes to working in the laboratory to study their health and hormones.

ACCOL’s Right Whale Research Team tracks the age of sighted whales, the birth of calves, as well as human impacts like vessel strikes and fishing gear entanglements in a catalog. The team also developed the first-ever pregnancy test for whales.

Throughout calving season, right whale researchers manage a detailed list of mom and calf pairs with biographical information that includes photographs, lineage, where the whales were last seen, how they were named and the challenges each whale has faced.

So far, 11 mother and calf pairs have been identified. Below is a growing list of sightings.

Recent sightings

Naevus and her calf sighted again Jan. 6, 2022, swimming with dolphins northeast of Saint Simons Island Sound, GA. Photo credit: CMARI, taken under NOAA permit #20556

Naevus (#2040)

Birth year: 1990
Last calving year: 2014
Previous calves: 5 (Infinity (#3230), Millipede (#3520), Bocce (#3860), Casper (#4140), Avalanche (#4440))
Other relatives: 7 siblings, 5 grandkids, 7 nieces and nephews
Direct human impacts: 6 entanglements

Naevus is a 32-year-old born to Wart (#1140) and Galileo (#1720) in 1990. She was spotted by a recreational boater off of Georgia on New Year’s Eve with her sixth calf! Naevus has a very large family and her older sister, Slalom, is a fellow mom this season! Naevus is a lucky mom in that her five other offspring are seemingly alive and well, all being seen fairly recently. In fact, all three of her daughters (Infinity, Millipede, and Bocce) gave birth last year. Unfortunately her grandchild, Infinity’s 2021 calf, was struck and killed by a vessel at just a few weeks old. Naevus’ family is no stranger to entanglements either, there have been 22 entanglement events between her and her offspring. Her youngest son, Avalanche, was just named this year for the severe, but healing, entanglement scars around his tailstock.

Photo credit: CMARI & USACE taken under NOAA permit #20556-01

#3220 (Previously unidentified)

Birth year: ? (First seen in 2002 as a mother)
Last calving year: 2012
Previous calves: 2 (#4220 and an uncatalogued 2002 calf)
Other relatives: n/a
Direct human impacts: 1 entanglement

Catalog #3220 is quite a mysterious whale. She was first seen by a recreational boater off of South Carolina on Dec. 24, 2021, but researchers were unable to confidently identify her until she was spotted by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute’s SC aerial survey team east of Ossabaw Island, GA, on Jan. 6, 2022. This is only part of her mysteriousness—She was first documented by researchers in the calving grounds in 2002 with a calf, and then she disappeared. Ten years later, she returned to the calving grounds with her second known calf (#4220), only to disappear again for another 10 years before returning with her latest calf! Catalog #3220 has never been documented in any other known right whale habitat.

Photo credit: CMARI, taken under NOAA permit #20556

Tripelago (#2614)

Birth year: 1996 
Last calving year: 2017
Previous calves: 4 (#3414, “Sawtooth” #3714, #4014, #4714)
Other relatives: 3 siblings
Direct human impacts: 2 entanglements

An aerial survey team from Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute sighted “Tripelago” (Catalog #2614)  with her fifth calf on December 26, 2021, seven miles east of Jekyll Island, GA. The 26-year-old mother is a reliable whale, as she has been seen by researchers every year since she was born, with the exception of 2014! Tripelago has three siblings, including her youngest sister “Hobbes,” the first offspring of the famous “Calvin.”

Photo credit: FWC, taken under NOAA permit #20556

#3430

Birth year: 2004
Last calving year: 2011
Previous calves: 1 (#4130)
Other relatives: 4 siblings
Direct human impacts: 3 entanglements

Catalog #3430, spotted by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) with her calf off Florida on December 18, is an 18-year-old whale born to Celeste in 2004, and sired by #1419. She had her first, and only other calf, #4130, a male, in 2011. She has two sisters and two brothers, however her sister #3901 was found deceased with large propeller cuts in 2010.

Derecha and calf

Photo credit: FWC, taken under NOAA permit #20556

Derecha (#2360)

Birth year: unknown (first seen in 1993)
Last calving year: 2020
Previous calves: 4 (Havana (#3460), Callosity Back (#3760), Equinox (#4060), #5010)
Other relatives: n/a
Direct human impacts: 3 entanglements

Derecha—first seen 29 years ago—was spotted with her calf by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) off the coast of Florida on December 18. This marks her fifth calf. She’s not yet a grandmother but hopefully her 15-year-old daughter, Callosity Back, will remedy that in the coming years. Derecha, and another mom of the year Snow Cone share something unfortunate in common, both of them calved in 2020 and both of their calves were struck by vessels. Derecha’s 2020 calf was seen with large propeller cuts across it’s head at just a few weeks old. This injury would likely make it unable to nurse or survive, but highly trained professionals managed to give it antibiotics to try and give it a fighting chance. Currently, we don’t yet know the outcome of the treatment, as the calf has not been seen since January 2020. Read more about Derecha in a previous blog.

Silt and her calf

Photo credit: FWC taken under NOAA permit #20556-01

Silt (#1817)

Birth year: unknown (first seen in 1988)
Last calving year: 2009
Previous calves: 4 (#2617, Frida (#3317), Salem (#3617), and #3988)
Other relatives: 3 grandkids
Direct human impacts: 4 entanglements

Silt, spotted by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) with her calf off Florida on December 16, was first seen 34 years ago. Like many of our older whales that were first seen without their mothers, we have less family history on her. She became a grandmother in 2009 thanks to her productive daughter Frida, who has gone on to have two more calves since then. Like most right whales, her family has seen their fair share of human caused injuries. Her eldest, #2617, passed away in 2005, not long after a potential vessel strike, and Frida had a close encounter with a vessel as a calf. 

Braces and calf

Photo credit: FWC taken under NOAA permit #20556-01

Braces (#3320)

Birth year: unknown (first seen in 1998)
Last calving year: 2009
Previous calves: 1 (#3970)
Other relatives: n/a
Direct human impacts: 3 entanglements

Braces and her calf were sighted off the coast of Florida on December 16 by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Although Braces was first seen 24 years ago, much of her history is unknown. She is named for the white scars on her lip, caused by an entanglement. Her son, born in 2009, has experienced eight entanglements. 

Mantis and calf

Photo credit: CMARI taken under NOAA permit #20556-01

Mantis (#1620)

Birth year: unknown (first seen in 1986)
Last calving year: 2015
Previous calves:
6 (#3720, Nymph (#4020), #4520, plus 3 unidentified calves in 1996, 2001, and 2004)
Other relatives: n/a
Direct human impacts: 2 entanglements

Mantis and her calf were sighted off Georgia on December 12 by Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute’s Georgia team. Mantis is a bit of a mysterious whale, she was first documented in 1986, so she’s at least 36, but she was already off on her own so we’re not sure her exact age, who her mother is, or if she has any siblings. She also likes to go years without being seen, especially after having a calf, which is why despite having six previous calves, three were never catalogued.

Photo credit: CMARI & USACE taken under NOAA permit #20556-01

Arpeggio (#2753)

Birth year: 1997
Last calving year: 2013
Previous calves:
2 (#3853, #4553)
Other relatives: 1 elder sibling born in 1993 (never catalogued)
Direct human impacts: 7 entanglements and 1 vessel strike

Twenty-five-year old Arpeggio and her third calf were seen off South Carolina on December 10 by Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute’s South Carolina team. As an only child, she has a small immediate family, but her name is a connection to her extended family. Arpeggio’s grandmother, Staccato, and two of her mom’s siblings also have musical names (1/4 Note and Legato)! Several times in recent years, Arpeggio has been seen in the company of Slalom (first mom of the year), perhaps getting tips from a fellow mom!

Photo credit: FWC taken under NOAA permit #20556

Snow Cone (#3560)

Birth year: 2005
Last calving year:
2020
Previous calves:
1 (#5060)
Other relatives: 5 siblings and 3 nieces and nephews
Direct human impacts: 3 previous entanglements (plus current)

Snow Cone and her calf were initially sighted of Georgia on December 2 by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Snow Cone is a 17-year-old whale born to mother #1308, and sired by Crabscar (#1155). She has five siblings including Chiminea (#4040) and Infinity (#3230) who were both moms last year! We can only learn of the father’s through genetics, but thanks to genetic samples, we know that Snow Cone actually had a half sister, #3595! Crabscar sired calves with two different females in 2005. Unfortunately Snow Cone’s family has no shortage of trauma. In additions to Snow Cone’s current entanglement, which could threaten the survival of both her and her calf, her first calf (in 2020) was killed by a ship at about six months old. In addition, her sister’s (Infinity) calf was struck and killed by a vessel in 2021, and Snow Cone’s nephew, Cottontail (#3920), succumbed to a fatal entanglement in 2021.

Photo credit: CMARI & USACE taken under NOAA permit #20556-01

Slalom (#1245)

Birth Year: 1982
Last calving year:
2011
Previous calves: 5 (Insignia (#2645), #3145, #3545, Mogul (#3845), and #4145)
Other relatives: 4 grandkids, 7 nieces and nephews
Direct human impacts: 6 entanglements, including one as a calf.

Slalom and her calf were the first pair sighted during the 2021-22 calving season, having been seen off South Carolina by Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute’s  team there. Born in 1982, Slalom is 40 years old—the eldest offspring to Wart (#1140)—and has 6 siblings! While she’s quite a traveler, seen in nearly all of the popular right whale habitats over the years, her son Mogul is famous for traveling to France, Iceland, and Newfoundland! We know Slalom is a tough cookie for surviving six entanglements while continuing to reproduce. That tough blood must run in the family as her sister, Pilgrim (#4340), was born in the frigid waters off of Cape Cod in 2013, instead of the toasty waters in the Southeast U.S. calving grounds.