Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Subclass: Eutheria
Order: Cetartiodactyla (whales and even-toed ungulates)
Family: Balaenopteridae

Genus/species: Megaptera novaeangliae

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Named for its stocky body with a distinctive hump formed by its black back when about to take a long dive. On the underside of the mouth are 12 to 36 throat pleats or grooves, which can expand when filtering water during feeding. Baleen is mostly black. Humpback whale 

M. novaeangliae  have knobbly heads, covered in many raised lumps (‘tubercles’) and barnacles. There are two blowholes. Unusually long pectoral fins with a characteristic serrated leading edge are adapted for high maneuverability associated with the whale’s unique feeding behavior. Fin color varies from all black to white. The expiration blow is bushy and highly visible 2.5-3 m ( 2.5-9.8 ft). Body length to 19 m (62 feet), weight to 48,100 kg (53 tons).

humpback whales17819773296_37dcacd696_o

about to dive


DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: All Oceans in open waters.
The wintering grounds of these are:
A (Southwest Atlantic): coast of Brazil
B (Southeast Atlantic): the coast of West Africa from the Gulf of Guinea down to South Africa
C (southwestern Indian Ocean): coasts of eastern South Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar (southern, western and eastern coasts), Mayotte, the Comoros and other western Indian Ocean island groups;
D (southeastern Indian Ocean): northwestern Australia
E (southwest Pacific) northeastern Australia, New Caledonia, Tonga and Fiji.
F (central South Pacific): Cook Islands and French Polynesia
G (southeast Pacific): Ecuador, Galápagos, Colombia, Panama and Costa

early dive


DIET: Feed only in summer, in polar waters on plankton, krill and small fishes. A group of Humpback whales will locate a large group of small fishes and then blow bubbles from their blowholes as they circle toward the surface. The ring of bubbles forms a “bubble-net” which the fishes and or krill perceive as solid. The fishes are compressed and the multiple whales then rise in unison to the surface inside the “bubble net” with their mouths open and their pleats expanded for a maxium catch of herring, caplin or sandlance. The water is expelled through their comb-like baleen (made of keratin) while their tongue sweeps the fishes down their throat. 


DSC_0381_2 (1)

REPRODUCTION: Sales sing complex songs, with each group having its own dialect lasting hours, and can be heard for over 18 miles (30 km). Females nurse their calves for almost a year. Calves do not stop growing until they are ten years old. Annual tropical to cool water migration 2,300-3,600 km (1,400-2,200 miles)

net scars


CONSERVATION: IUCN Redlist 2008 Least Concern (LC)
1994–Vulnerable (Groombridge 1994)
1990–Vulnerable (IUCN 1990)
1988–Endangered (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
1986–Endangered (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)

The Arabian Sea subpopulation and the Oceania subpopulation are classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (July, 2009)

REMARKS: Individual may be identified by the distinctive markings on their flukes, or tails.


Ron’s flickr

Ron’s WordPress

Oxford Journals Integrative & Comparative Biology

IUCN Red List 2008

IUCN Red List (July, 2009)

Monterey bay aquarium…

National Geographic…


Shirihai, H & Jarrett (2006) Whales Dolphins and Other Marine Mammals of the World,  Princeton University Press.

Evans, P & Weinrich, M (2002) Whales Dolphins and Porpoises,  D K London New York Munich Melbourne and Delhi.

Reeves, R, R, et al (2002) Guide to Marine Mammals of the World
Chanticleer Press, Inc.

Buffington K, et al (1992) Whales,  Scholastic Professional Books