Humpback Whale -- Cetacean Info at Whale Songs

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Megaptera novaeangliae

DISCOVERED: Borowski, 1781

COMMON NAME: Humpback Whale; refers to habit of raising and bending its back in preparation for a dive, accentuating the hump in front of the dorsal fin


* Widely distributed in all oceans
* Distinct seasonal changes in distribution
* Spends winter in high-latitude, cold-water feeding grounds
* Spends summer in low-latitude, warm-water breeding grounds
* Migrates thousands of miles between the two


* Long flippers, representing 23-33% of body length
* Black, blue-black, or dark gray upper side
* Low, stubby fin with hump
* Large, stocky body
* Raised lumps called tubercles occur on head and lower jaw
* 12-36 grooves
* Head is rounded when seen from above and slender in profile
* Large, notched tail flukes often raised before deep dive
* Average adult body length= 12.9 m (males) 13.7 m (females)



* Spends much of year in shallow water, fairly close to continental shores or islands, breeding and feeding on offshore banks
* Occur from the tropics to polar waters
* Photograph


* Mostly feed within 50m of the surface
* Prey includes krill and shoaling fish, mainly herring, sand eel, capelin, and mackerel
* Known as a "gulper" for closing the mouth after engulfing a mouthful of food and water, then expelling the water through the baleen plates to leave the food on the inner surfaces and eventually swallowing it
* Makes "lunges", in which the whale swims through the prey with its mouth open, often erupting at the surface with food and water pouring from the gape


* Females reproduce at 2-3 year intervals
* 12 month gestation period
* Give birth to single calf
* Nursing lasts 10-11 months


* Energetic and exuberant
* May breach, lobtail and flipper-slap several times in a row
* Slow swimmer
* Spyhops
* Known to lie on its back, holding one or both flippers in the air
* Highly inquisitive
* 3-9 min. dives, followed by 4-8 blows at 15-30 sec. intervals
* Males at breeding grounds are well known for their singing- sing the longest and most complex songs in the animal kingdom


* 25,000 worldwide


* Were easy prey for shore-based whalers
* More than 100,000 Humpbacks were killed by whalers
* Recovery has been extremely slow
* Vulnerable to shoreline pollution, boat traffic, entanglement in fishing gear
* Protected by the IWC in 1963
* Only remaining direct humpback fishery today is in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines