Humpback whale

The humpback whale, or as this animal is affectionately called, the long-armed minke whale is a large aquatic mammal that lives in the seas and oceans around the world. The humpback whale is considered one of the most agile whales that put on real performances, jumping out of the water column and flopping loudly back into the water. For acrobatic performances, whales have gained a reputation as funny whales.

Origin of the species and description

Photo: Humpback Whale

Photo: Humpback Whale

Megaptera novaeangliae The humpback whale or humpback whale is a very large aquatic mammal that belongs to the family of striped whales, suborder of baleen whales. Type of humpback. Whales are mammals, and ancient predatory mesonychia are considered their ancestors. Animals somewhat similar in appearance to wolves with hooves and sharp claws on them. So the closest relatives of whales in the modern world can be considered not fish, but rather hippos.

The most similar to modern whales in the ancient world are considered to be mammals from the Protocetid family, which led an amphibious lifestyle, but in structure they were already more similar to modern whales. The nasal openings of these animals were shifted upwards, and these animals already had an almost fish tail.

Video: Humpback whale

Basilosaurus — these creatures lived about 38 million years ago. They were the size of modern whales, they had a fat frontal protrusion, which was responsible for echolocation. In these animals, degradation of the limbs was noted due to their almost complete transition to an aquatic lifestyle. The limbs are still well developed, but they are very small and cannot be used for locomotion.

The next step in the evolution of cetaceans was toothed whales, which inhabited the water bodies of our planet from the middle Oligocene to the middle Miocene. This is about 34-14 million years ago, these creatures actively used echolocation, swam well in the water and lost contact with land. The oldest species of humpback whale Megaptera miocaena lived on our planet in the late Miocene.

The remains of these animals are known from the Pleistocene and Late Pliocene. Gorbach was first described by Mathurin Jacques Brisson as «baleine de la Nouvelle Angleterre» which in translation means «Whale of New England» in 1756 in his work «Animal Kingdom». Later, Georg Barowski renamed the animal by translating its name into Latin Baleana novaeangliae.

French ichthyologist Bernard Germain Ellen de la Ville, Count Laseped changed the classification and name of this whale species. He also described one of the most ancient fossil whale species, Megaptera miocaena, which lived in the late Miocene.

Appearance and Features

Photo: What a humpback whale looks like

Photo: What a humpback whale looks like

The long-armed minke whale is one of the largest creatures on our planet. The average weight of an adult is about 30 tons. The body length is about 15 meters in females and 12.5-13 in males. However, there are especially large individuals whose length reaches 19 meters, and their weight is up to 50 tons. Sexual defromism in favor of females. Outwardly, females differ from males only in the size and structure of the dropped zone. The body of the whale is dense and shortened. The body is expanded in front, the body is thinned in the back and slightly compressed on the sides.

The head is large and ends in a rounded snout. The lower jaws are well developed, strong and, as it were, pushed forward a little. The skull is broad-cheeked. The eyes are small. The nostrils of this species are located at the top of the head and form a blowhole. On the head, from the blowhole to the snout, there are about 4 rows of skin growths similar to warts.

In the middle row there are 6-8 outgrowths, on the sides from 6 to 15. In front of the lower jaw there is a rather large outgrowth up to 32 centimeters in diameter. All growths are altered hair follicles, from each of the growths a hair grows. The size and location of the growths, as well as the coloration of whales, are individual. The whale has a large sagging belly.

On the belly there are longitudinal throat folds that stretch from the chin to the navel. When eating, these folds expand significantly so that the whale can swallow a large amount of water. There are about 20 folds in total, the folds are white.

An interesting fact: The humpback whale has a very dense layer of subcutaneous fat, which allows the animal to stay without food for a long time and live in cold waters.


The fins on the chest are especially long; their length is equal to 30% of the whale's body length. Thanks to such long fins, the whale can swim well and jump high above the water. The fin, located on the back, is small, only about 32 cm. The posterior edge of the fin is often curved in the form of a sickle. The front edge of the fin is gentle.

The tail has a large and massive fin with a serrated edge. Humpback whales can have a wide variety of colors. The back and sides of the whale are usually black or dark gray. There are white furrows on the chest and sides. The fins located on the chest are dark or spotted above, often light or white below. The tail is dark above, below it can be either light or spotted.

There are 7 vertebrae on the neck. The internal organs are protected by 14 thoracic vertebrae, 10 lumbar and 21 tail vertebrae. The humpback whale releases a large v-shaped fountain that can be up to three meters high.

Where does the humpback whale live?

Photo: Humpback Whale in the Dominican Republic

Photo: Humpback Whale in the Dominican Republic

Humpback whales are real travelers. They live throughout the world's oceans and adjacent seas. They are constantly migratory, and stay mainly in krill habitats. There are also seasonal migrations. These marine animals cannot be found only in the polar waters.

In the world's oceans, experts identify 3 large populations and about 10 individual herds of whales that constantly migrate. The western population migrates from Iceland and Labrador to the waters of New England and the Antins.

The eastern population inhabits the Barents Sea, the waters of Norway, and western Africa. Western and eastern herds may overlap during migrations. They can winter in a single herd near the Antilles. The Pacific North is also inhabited by scattered herds that move from Chukotka to the coast of California, the coast of Mexico, the Hawaiian Islands and Japan. As many as 5 herds have chosen the cold Arctic waters of the Southern Hemisphere as their home.

The placement of these herds is as follows:

  • the first herd is located near the coast of South America from the west;
  • the second herd inhabits the waters off the coast of South America on the east side;
  • the third is located in the waters of East Africa and near the island of Madagascar;
  • the fourth inhabits the waters of Western Australia;
  • another herd lives off the coast of Eastern Australia.

On the territory of our country, whales of this species live in Japan, Chukchi, Bering and Barents Seas. True, recently the population of whales of this species has greatly decreased; in the places of habitual habitat of these animals, it is becoming less and less. There are only a few humpback whales left in the Barents Sea.

Interesting fact: To get rid of parasites, humpback whales often enter the mouths of freshwater rivers, where they are freed from parasites that live on the whale's body. Parasites cannot live in fresh water and die.

Now you know where the humpback whale lives. Let's see what this mammal eats.

What does the humpback whale eat?

Photo: Great humpback whale

Photo: Great humpback whale

Predatory humpback whales animals and they feed mainly on small crustaceans, krill and fish.

The usual diet of these creatures includes:

  • krill;
  • small crustaceans;
  • shellfish;
  • shrimps and plankton;
  • herring;
  • capelin;
  • cod;
  • keta;
  • pink salmon and other fish species;
  • algae.

Humpback salmon feed by filtration. These animals have huge baleen plates, somewhat similar to a sieve, that grow from the upper jaw. These plates collect plankton, algae and small fish. The predator simply opens its huge mouth and sucks in a large volume of water along with the plankton and living creatures that are in it.

After the whale closes its mouth, the water is filtered between the plates of the whalebone. Previously stretched throat folds are compressed, the whale's tongue rises. The food remains on the bristles that are located on the inner edge of the whalebone, and is later swallowed. The water comes out.

Fun fact: The whale is a very large creature and needs a lot of food. A whale's stomach can contain up to 850 kg of fish.

Whales get their food in a variety of ways. Sometimes whales hunt together for entire flocks of fish. Several whales simultaneously swimming in a circle and churning the water with their fins create a foam ring from which the fish cannot swim out and huddle into one tight school.

At the same time, the whales, in turn, sharply emerge into the center of the fish school and try to capture both as much loot as possible. When hunting for demersal fish and crustaceans, humpbacks, exhaling water, create a cloud of foam in the water from the blowhole, which knocks the fish down. After that, the whale abruptly dives to the bottom, swallowing food.

Sometimes lone whales stun the fish with sharp blows of the tail on the surface of the water, while the whale swims in a circle. The stunned fish does not understand where it needs to swim and also stray into a school, after which the whale abruptly captures the prey.

Character and lifestyle features

Photo: Humpback whale in the sea

Photo: Humpback whale in the sea

The life of humpback whales is very dependent on their seasonal migrations. During the mating season and in their usual habitat, whales try to stay in the coastal zone at shallow depths. They live more often in krill habitats. In the same place, animals are fattened forming a strong layer of subcutaneous fat. During wintering, whales eat very little and lose up to 30% of their weight.

For wintering, whales migrate to places with a warmer climate. Whales often winter near the coasts of Mexico, Japan and Colombia. During migrations, whales swim thousands of kilometers, while the trajectory of the movement of the whales passes in a straight line. Whales move slowly, during migration the speed of movement of the humpback whale is about 10-15 km/h.

Humpback whales are considered the most cheerful and playful. Humpbacks often create whole performances by jumping several meters out of the water, and merrily flopping back into the water. At the same time, humpbacks are surrounded by clouds of spray. This behavior in animals is not really due to the playful nature. Whales do not have fun in this way, but simply throw off the parasites that live on their body. Whales cannot be underwater all the time the way they breathe air.

In the summer, whales dive under water for 5-8 minutes. In winter, at 10-15 in rare cases, they can be under water for up to half an hour. Humpback whales constantly release fountains of filtered water on the surface at intervals of 5-17 seconds. V-shaped fountains up to 5 meters high. Humpback whales have a calm, sociable nature. The social structure of the whales is undeveloped, the whales mostly keep in small herds or singly. Families in whales are not formed, only the female takes care of the offspring. The average life expectancy of humpback whales is 40-50 years.

Social Structure and Reproduction

Photo: Humpback Whale from the Red Book

Photo: Humpback Whale from the Red Book

The mating season for humpback whales falls in the winter. During the entire mating season, you can hear the loud singing of males. So they attract females, and mark the boundaries of their possessions for other males. Sometimes singing can be a common means of communication.

During the mating season, whales spend the winter in warm waters, while females ready for mating settle in calm waters, protected from winds in shallow water. Males stay close. Having chosen a female, the male pursues her, not allowing other males to approach her. Often there are skirmishes between males who are fighting for a female. The male does not stay with the female for a long time and after mating, almost immediately moves back to other males.

At the end of the mating season, the whales return to the polar feeding areas. There, the whales intensively feed for 3 months. After fattening, the whales return to warm waters. It is there that after almost a year of gestation, females give birth to one cub each. A newborn whale weighs from 700 kg to 1.5 tons. The height of the cub at birth is about 5 meters. The female feeds the cub with milk during the first year.

An interesting fact: Female whales are the only mammals that are able to bear and feed the cub with milk at a time when she herself has nothing to eat. During the winter in the tropics, the whales hardly eat, and the females feed the cubs with milk, which is produced from fat reserves.

The cub grows very quickly, and by the end of feeding its growth is about 9 meters in length. During this time, the female gives up almost all the reserves and loses a lot in weight. During migration, the cub swims next to the mother. Whales reach sexual maturity at 6 years of age. The female gives birth to 1 cub 1 time in several years. Sometimes females can become pregnant during the lactation period, but this is only under favorable conditions.

Natural enemies of humpback whales

Photo: Humpback Whale

Photo: Humpback Whale

Humpback whales, due to their huge size, have virtually no enemies in the wild. Of the natural enemies of the whales, only the killer whale can be noted, which can attack the cubs of the whales. However, these giant creatures are very poisoned by small parasites.

The most common parasites that live on whales include:

  • copepods;
  • whale lice;
  • baleen crustaceans;
  • roundworms;
  • trematodes;
  • nematodes, scrapers, etc.

But the main enemy of these huge creatures was and remains man. Whales have long been an object of whaling, and in the 20th century, about 90% of these animals were exterminated now for hunting, a ban has been introduced on whales. But until now, several whales are killed every year. Whale meat is highly valued, and baleen is also highly valued, from which many items are made.

With the introduction of a ban on hunting, the whale population began to gradually recover. Today, the main concern is the pollution of water bodies in which whales live. Due to climate change and water pollution, harmful chemicals entering the water, fish and small crustaceans, which are whale food, are dying. Besides. non-degradable debris gets stuck in the whale's digestive tract, causing the animal to die.

Population and species status

Photo: What Humpback Whale Looks Like

Photo: What a humpback whale looks like

Due to the fact that for a long time people have been ruthlessly hunting for humpback whales, The population of these amazing creatures is under threat of extinction. The statistics are sad: out of 150-120 thousand individuals on our planet, only 30 to 60 thousand individuals remain. At the same time, the North Atlantic population of humpback whales has decreased from 15 thousand individuals to 700 animals.

The North Pacific whale population initially numbered about 15 thousand individuals, but by 1976 the population had decreased to 1,500 animals, although by 1997 the population had again increased to 6,000 animals. In the Southern Hemisphere in 1965 there were 100 thousand individuals, at the moment there are 20 thousand heads. In the North Indian Ocean in the 80s. there were only 500 individuals.

After the ban on fishing was introduced, the population of humpback whales began to gradually recover. In 1990, this species had the status of Endangered in the Red Book – a species on the verge of extinction was changed to Vulnerable (the population of which is in a vulnerable state).

The main danger to whales at the moment is poor environmental conditions, pollution waters and climate change. Also, humpback whales often get caught in fishing nets, from which they cannot get out, and collide with ships. In whale breeding areas, many factors that prevent these animals from quietly breeding with them include a large number of fishing vessels, and an abundance of boats and boats.

Humpback Whale Conservation

Photo: Red Book humpback whale

Photo: Humpback whale from the Red Book

The main measure for the protection of humpback whales, which led to an increase in the population, is a ban on whaling in all countries of the world. At the moment, only a few whales per year are allowed.
In a number of water areas, at the legislative level, the speed at which ships can move was limited, the routes of some ships were changed so that the paths of whales during migration did not intersect with ships, and the whales didn't crash into them. Special squads have been organized to help whales get out of the nets.

In our country, the humpback whale is listed in the Red Book. In case of damage to the population of whales, the capture of these animals provides for the recovery of 210 thousand rubles in favor of the state.
Reserves are also being developed in the area of ​​the Sea of ​​Okhotsk and the Commander Islands. The conservation of the humpback whale population is of great importance for the conservation of the biological diversity of the fauna.

Whales play a very important role in the functioning of various animal communities and the cycle of organic matter in nature. In addition, whales regulate the populations of many species of fish and other aquatic creatures, preventing them from over-breeding. The rescue of humpback whales is in our hands, people should take care of the environment, build garbage processing plants, and keep water bodies clean.

The humpback whale is a truly amazing creature. Today, researchers are trying to learn as much as possible about how these creatures live. After all, little has been done about this issue before. To study their incredible system of signals, incomprehensible to man. Who knows, maybe in the near future we will find out what the humpback whale sings about?

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