Picture of a humpback whale breaching the surface

WhaleNet Whale Movements

Right Whale "Rat" Curriculum Unit on
Micro-movements and
Macro-movements of Whales


Most whales move throughout their lifetimes. Some movements are long and others are short.

The longer movements (macro-movements) are usually called migrations and the endpoints of the migrations are places where they feed and where they breed. The feeding areas are usually toward the polar waters where the waters are more productive, and the breeding areas are usually in tropical or subtropical waters where the waters are warmer, but less productive.

The shorter movements (micro-movements) are how whales use the local habitat in which they are located. These localizied movements are usually foraging movements in feeding areas, but in warmer breeding areas there are still many questions to be answered.

This activity is based on actual research data take in January and February of 1997 in the breeding area of a Northern Right Whale population. It is estimated that there are only 300 to 350 Northern Right Whales in this population so all research knowledge is very important.


The goals of this activity are to observe and analyze the movements of a specific Right Whale, "Rat" (RWC#1509), in her winter habitat off of the coasts of Georgia and Florida.

"Rat" was seen off of Florida and Georgia quite frequently this season with her calf. She was previously seen in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and has been a regular in Massachusetts Bay. However, she has never been seen in the Bay of Funday. This is her fourth known calf.

Using the tools given below and other tools that you may have you can determine and study the range of movement of this right whale "Rat" while it is at this end of its migration. Some questions that you might want to address are:

How far does it travel in a day?
In what depth of water is it most of the time?
Why do you think it likes this area?
It there much human activity in this area? If so, what kind?
What impact or effect might this human activity have on this whale population?

Catalog Page of "Rat" RWC#1509

DATA: Table of "Rats" movements
MAP: Maps to download and use to plot the fixes

Color Map
Black and White Map

Early Warning System Sightings Map

Tools and Links:

The Beaufort Scale /Sea State Scale(Northern Illinois Univeristy)
Whale Species Identification Chart :Allied Whale/College of the Atlantic
Specimen Images Listed by Phylum (images)
Marine Mammal Classifications and descriptions by species
Map Generator
Distance generator from any two points
Tide Generator and Current Predictor
Maps to chart data:

Color Map of area
Black and White Map of area

Sites with Information on Right Whales:
The habits of whales - Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
Protected species -National Marine Fisheries Service Cetaceans Page
National Marine Fisheries ServiceRecovery Plan for the Northern Right Whale
National Marine Fisheries Northeast Regional Office in Gloucester, MA
Northeast Marine Science Center in Woods Hole, MA


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