Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale

Humpback whale classification
The Humpback whale is marine mammal in the genus Megaptera and family Balaenoptiidae. Its scientific name is Megaptera novaeangliae and it is one of the so called baleen whales in the suborder Mysticeti. Baleen whales are also known as whalebone whales or great whales, and distinguish themselves from the toothed whales of the suborder Odontoceti by having baleen plates instead of teeth. Baleen plates are used for filtering water. 

Humpback whale range
Humpback whales inhabit all the large oceans of the world, from the ice edge of the Antarctic to approximately 65° N latitude. They do not live in the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean or the Arctic Ocean. During the summer, you will find the Humpback whales in cool waters located at high latitudes. They migrate to sub-tropical and tropical waters in order to mate and have their calves. Hump back whales are highly migratory mammals and annual journeys of up to 16,000 miles (25,000 kilometres) are common. The Arabian Sea population is however not migratory; it stays in these warm waters 12 months a year.    

Humpback whale description
The body of the Humback whale is not as slim and slender as the body of other rorquals, but still quite streamlined. The tail stock (peduncle) is narrow and slender. If you watch the whale from above, the head is broad and well rounded, but if you instead watch the whale from the side it looks quite slim. The Humpback whale has 20-35 ventral grooves that extends slightly past the navel. The top of the Humpback’s head as well as it lower jaw sports bump-shaped knobs. These knobs contain one or several stiff hairs. We still not know for sure why these knobs and hairs developed, but they might provide the Humpback whale with a sense of touch. They might be similar to the whiskers of a cat.    

Humpback whale food
Humpback whales feed extensively during the summer season and survive on their energy reserved during the winter. They are skilled predators and consume a broad selection of different prey, from small krill to herring, capelin, sand lance and large schools of fish. 

The Humpback whale can catch prey by direct attacks, but it is also common for the whale to stun its prey by hitting the water around the prey with its powerful flukes and/or flippers. Groups of Humpback whales are also known to cooperate in so called “bubble net fishing”. During bubble net fishing, the Humpback whales create a tube of air bubbles large enough to trap an entire school of fish.

Humpback whale watching
Humpback whales tend to be quite curious creatures and they will often approach boats and stay within a small distance of them. This was naturally a huge disadvantage for the Humpback whale population during the 20th century when they were extensively hunted from boats, but today only a few nations engage in Humpback whale hunting. The curiosity of the Humpback whale has today made it a popular animal among whale watchers. You can participate in whale watching trips in many different parts of the world, including Byron Bay north of Sydney, the Bay of Biscay west of France, the Snaefellsnes peninsula west of Iceland, the coast of Newfoundland and Vancouver in Canada and along the northern St. Lawrence River. In the United States, Humpback whale watching takes place on the Atlantic side as well as along the Pacific coast. You can for instance get on a whale watching boat in Washington, New England, Alaska and Hawaii.

Whale & Dolphin Articles:

Beluga Whale
Beluga Whale Facts
Blue Whale
Blue Whale Facts
Bottlenose Dolphin
Bottlenose Dolphin Facts
Humpback Whale Facts
Sperm Whale
Pygme Sperm Whale


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