Meet the Newly Named Right Whales of 2021

It’s that time of year again - the air is getting cooler, the North Atlantic right whale calving season has officially begun, and eighteen cataloged right whales have been selected for naming!

By New England Aquarium on Monday, December 06, 2021

See caption below
Musketeer New England Aquarium, NOAA Research Permit #19674

Monica Pepe of Whale and Dolphin Conservation assisted with writing this article.


While some may wonder why names are assigned to right whales, this simple act serves the vital task of rapidly identifying individuals. Field researchers must be able to correctly identify individual right whales in real time so they know when they need to take a biopsy for genetic studies, check for the presence or absence of entangling gear, or collect better photographs for long-term studies. Though not every right whale has a name, each right whale in the North Atlantic right whale catalog is assigned a four-digit number based on the year they were born or first seen, as well as the last two digits of their mother’s number (if known). This catalog number can provide a researcher with information about a particular whale, but in all honesty it is easier to remember a name than a number, which is why a subgroup of whales is selected for naming each year.

Naming a North Atlantic right whale is more involved than you may think. The purpose of a name is to help identify an individual whale, and in order to be useful, that name must relate to some easily recognizable feature or fact about that particular whale. For example, a female right whale with many shallow propeller scars along her back was named Millipede because the scars reminded researchers of the segmented body of that multi-legged insect. In another case, a whale was named Pilgrim because she was presumably born in Cape Cod Bay (unusual for right whales) and was first seen offshore of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, MA.

This year over 200 names were nominated and for the first time ranked voting was used to select the final names, which were presented at the annual North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium meeting in October. Following the success of last year’s right whale naming process, where all 18 nominated right whales were named, once again the voters have spoken and another 18 right whales have been named this year!


Name: Batman (Catalog #1017)

Sex: Male

Age: 41+

Reason for name: On my lower right lip, I have two white marks that look like Batman eyes through a mask.

Closest friend: Epic 

Favorite place to hang: Lately I spend most of my time in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Cape Cod Bay, though it’s possible I’ve also made clandestine appearances in Gotham.

Favorite song: Batman The Dark Knight Theme — Hans Zimmer


Name: Spindle (Catalog #1204)

Sex: Female

Age: 39+

Reason for name: The long, symmetrical mark on my head looks like a banister post.

Closest friend: Pediddle 

Favorite place to hang: Anywhere along the eastern seaboard between Florida and the Gulf of Maine.

Favorite song: Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin



Name: Jib (Catalog #2303)

Sex: Male

Age: 28

Reason for name: A triangular shaped marking on the top of my head resembles the jib sheet on a sailboat. 

Closest friend: Armada 

Favorite place to hang: I like to spend time around New England and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, though I have also been known to make the occasional voyage down to Florida.

Favorite song: Sailing – Christopher Cross



Name: Flounder (Catalog #2420)

Sex: Female

Age: 27+

Reason for name: The two round marks on the left side of the top of my head look like Flounder eyes.

Closest friend: Sebastian

Favorite place to hang: I’ve been spotted off the coasts of Georgia and Florida with a calf in tow, but I also like to spend time in the Great South Channel east of Nantucket.

Favorite song: Under the Sea (from the Little Mermaid)



Name: Chauve (Catalog #2740)

Sex: Male

Age: 24

Reason for name: I don’t have many markings, so I’m pretty bald. My name means bald in French, and my mom’s name is Baldy!

Closest friends: Mon ami, Champagne 

Favorite place to hang: A wanderer at heart, I’ve been sighted in nearly every known right whale habitat in the western North Atlantic.

Favorite song: I Think I’m Going Bald – Rush



Name: Ellipsis (Catalog #2743)

Sex: Male

Age: 24

Reason for name: Behind my blowholes I have three circular markings, which is the symbol for an ellipsis.

Closest friend: Hyphen

Favorite place to hang: I used to spend a lot of time in the Bay of Fundy, but now I am usually found in Cape Cod Bay and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Favorite song: Some Things are Better Left Unsaid – Hall and Oates



Name: Dune (Catalog #3351) 

Sex: Male

Age: 18

Reason for name: The big continuous marking on my lip resembles a sand dune, and my mother, Mavynne, was named after environmental activist MaVynne Betsch, also known as the Beach Lady.

Closest friends: Giza 

Favorite place to hang: As a younger whale I made several trips down to Florida, though as I’ve aged I prefer to spend my time in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Cape Cod Bay.

Favorite song: Castles in the Sand – Stevie Wonder



Name: Twister (Catalog #3510)

Sex: Male

Age: 16

Reason for name: I have a scar near my tail that looks a bit like a tornado. 

Closest friend: Lone Star

Favorite place to hang: Like many right whales, I’ve spent much of my time in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and waters of New England.

Favorite song: The Twist – Chubby Checker



Name: Loki (Catalog #3596)

Sex: Unknown

Age: 16+

Reason for name: Because I’m not seen by humans much, they named me after the trickster Norsegod who was notorious for going incognito.

Closest friend: Magic

Favorite place to hang: I’ve been seen only a few times in my life, and so far only in the Gulf of Maine in winter- the rest of the time my whereabouts are a mystery! 

Favorite song: Who Are You – The Who



Name: Fission (Catalog #3790) 

Sex: Female

Age: 14

Reason for name: The markings on the top of my head look like fused atoms are separating (this process is called fission).

Closest friend: Mitosis

Favorite place to hang: Cape Cod Bay is one of my favorite spots along the east coast.

Favorite song: She Blinded Me With Science – Thomas Dolby



Name: Nimbus (Catalog #3812) 

Sex: Male

Age: 13

Reason for name: The big scars on my lip look like clouds.

Closest friend: Silver

Favorite place to hang: Much like my cloud namesake, I like to drift between locations in the Gulf of Maine and Canada.

Favorite song:  Cloud 9 – Jamiroquai



Name: Quill (Catalog #4091)

Sex: Female

Age: 11

Reason for name: I have a white scar on my head that looks like an old-fashioned quill pen.

Closest friend: Arrow

Favorite place to hang: I like to chill with my pals in Southern New England.

Favorite song: Come and Get Your Love – Redbone



Name: Accordion (Catalog #4150)

Sex: Female

Age: 10+

Reason for name: The linear scars on my back remind me of my collision with a boat, but they remind researchers of an accordion.

Closest friend: Cello

Favorite place to hang: Cape Cod Bay and Southern New England are my jam!

Favorite song: Polka Face – Weird Al Yankovic



Name: Musketeer (Catalog #4360)

Sex: Unknown

Age: 8+

Reason for name: I have three fused markings on my head representing the Three Musketeers, and the scar behind my blowholes looks like the feather on a Musketeer’s hat. 

Closest friend: Tripelago

Favorite place to hang: I like the trifecta of Southern New England, George’s Bank, and Cape Cod Bay.

Favorite song: All For Love – Rod Stewart, Bryan Adams, Sting



Name: Nebula (Catalog #4423)

Sex: Male

Age: 7

Reason for name: I have cloudy scars on my head and tail that look like nebulous clouds. 

Closest friend: Cassiopeia

Favorite place to hang: Much of my time is spent in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Favorite song: The Galaxy Song – Monty Python



Name: Avalanche (Catalog #4440)

Sex: Male

Age: 7

Reason for name: The white scarring on my tail looks like a falling avalanche.

Closest friend: Slalom

Favorite place to hang: I’ve done a lot of traveling between the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the waters off Massachusetts.

Favorite song: Avalanche – James Arthur



Name: Seamount (Catalog #4457)

Sex: Male

Age: 7

Reason for name: The round scars on my back look like a series of seamounts. 

Closest friends: Archipelago

Favorite place to hang: My destination is often the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Favorite song: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Marvin Gaye




Name: Shelagh (Catalog #4510) 

Sex: Female

Age: 6+

Reason for name: I was disentangled by Captain Joe Howlett and the crew of the research vessel Shelagh in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in July 2017.

Closest friend: Halo 

Favorite place to hang: Most of my sightings have been in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Favorite song: Free Spirit – Khalid



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