The humpback whale is one of the rorquals, a family that also includes the blue whale, fin whale, Bryde’s whale, sei whale, and minke whale. Rorquals have two characteristics in common: dorsal fins on their backs, and ventral pleats running from the tip of the lower jaw back to the belly area. The shape and color pattern on the humpback whale’s dorsal fin and flukes (tail) are as individual in each animal as are fingerprints in humans. The discovery of this interesting fact changed the course of cetacean research forever, and the new form of research known as “photo-identification,” in which individuals are identified, catalogued, and monitored, has led to valuable information about such things as humpback whale population sizes, migration, sexual maturity, and behavior patterns. find out humpback whale habitat below
Physical Description of humpback whale
The head of a humpback whale is broad and rounded when viewed from above, but slim in profile. The body is not as streamlined as other rorquals, but is quite round, narrowing to a slender peduncle (tail stock). The top of the head and lower jaw have rounded, bump-like knobs, each containing at least one stiff hair. The purpose of these hairs is not known, though they may allow the whale to detect movement in nearby waters. There are between 20-50 ventral grooves which extend slightly beyond the navel
The upper side of the humpback whale is mottled black to gray and the underside is white. This color pattern extends all the way to the humpback’s tail. Whales in the southern hemisphere tend to have larger areas of white than those living in the northern hemisphere.
Fins and Fluke
About 2/3 of the way back on the body is an irregularly shape dorsal (top) fin. Its flippers are very long, between 1/4 and 1/3 the length of its body, and have large knobs on the leading edge. The flukes (tail), which can be 18 feet (5.5 m) wide, is serrating and pointing at the tips.
Length and Weight
Adult males measure 40-48 feet (12.2-14.6 m), adult females measure 45-50 feet (13.7-15.2 m). They weigh 25 to 40 tons (22,680-36,287 kg)
Humpback whales feed on krill, small shrimp-like crustaceans, and various kinds of small fish. Each whale eats up to 1 and 1/2 tons (1,361 kg) of food a day. As a baleen whale, it has a series of 270-400 fringed overlapping plates hanging from each side of the upper jaw, where teeth might otherwise be located. These plates consist of a fingernail-like material called keratin that frays out into fine hairs on the ends inside the mouth near the tongue. The plates are black and measure about 30 inches (76 cm) in length. During feeding, large volumes of water and food can be take into the mouth because the pleated grooves in the throat expand. As the mouth closes water is expelled through the baleen plates, which trap the food on the inside near the tongue to be swallowed.
Mating and Breeding
Humpback whales reach sexual maturity at 6-10 years of age or when males reach the length of 35 feet (11.6 m) and females reach 40 feet (12 m). Each female typically bears a calf every 2-3 years and the gestation period is 12 months. A humpback whale calf is between 10-15 feet (3-4.5 m) long at birth, and weighs up to 1 ton (907 kg). It nurses frequently on the mother’s rich milk, which has a 45% to 60% fat content. The calf is weaned to solid food when it is about a year old
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