HUMPUP WHALE - All about this cetacean

Humpback whale: find out what this animal is like, its physical characteristics, character, behavior, etc. The humpback whale, or Megaptera novaeangliae, is one of the...

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The humpback whale, or Megaptera novaeangliae, is one of the most striking and special cetaceans.

With its curious habits and modes of communication, the humpback whale is famous for its particular song, which is fundamental in the exchange of information with the rest of its congeners. In addition, whales are migratory animals that travel great distances each year. You want to know a little more about them On PlanèteAnimal we talk to you about all the details about the humpback whale.


  • America
  • Antarctica
  • Asia
  • Canada
  • Costa Rica
  • United States
  • Japan
  • Mexico

Features of the Humpback Whale

The humpback whale is a baleen whale, which shares its family with other species such as the blue whale, the fin whale or the minke whale. In 1756, the French zoologist Mathurin Jacques Brisson named it “New England whale”, or megaptera novaeangliae, its scientific name. However, at the beginning of the 19th century, it began to be called "Humpback whale" , because of the curvature of its spine when submerged in water.

Humpback whales have a very particular anatomy, highlighting their large pectoral fins, which measure a third of the rest of the body.In contrast, their dorsal fin is small and has shapes that range from sickle to almost imperceptible shapes.

The head of the humpback whale is unique, being knotty and quite elongated, it has a few bumps called cephalic tubercles which are only present in this species. Its tail, which comes out of the water when it dives, has a pattern exclusive to each specimen, in which black and white mingle. Its body color varies on the belly, from white to black or spotted, but in all individuals the back is black.

Humpback Whale Size

The humpback whale is a large cetacean, being one of the largest whales in the world. In particular, the sexual dimorphism of the species stands out, as the females are significantly larger than the males. The difference is notorious, because while a female is usually between 11.9 and 13.9 meters tall, with highs of up to 15.5 meters, males are usually found in the range between 11 and 13 meters, although male specimens of up to 14 meters have been recorded.

Humpback whale habitat

There are populations of humpback whales in both the northern hemisphere and the southern hemisphere. They live in the oceans between 60º south latitude and 65º north latitude, and carry out a complex annual migration. In summer, whales live in cold seas at high latitudes, while in winter they prefer to move to warmer waters.

Populations are generally distinguished according to their location, the three most important being those present in the North Atlantic, the Southern Hemisphere and the North Pacific. It is not common for populations of whales from different places to interact with each other.

Humpback Whale Migration

Whale migration is seasonal. They migrate in early summer, when they prefer cold waters, and stay there until winter, when they move to warmer waters.

As mentioned before, there are three main populations of humpback whales, each of which has a different migration. For example, Pacific whales live in winter on the coasts of Hawaii, Costa Rica, Mexico or Japan, while summer is usually spent on the coasts between the territories of California and Alaska.

The distances traveled during migration can be incredibly long, with each whale reaching a distance of 25,000 kilometers in a single year. During the time they are on the move, they hardly rest or stop to feed, surviving on their body fat reserves.

Humpback Whale Behavior and Habits

Humpback whales are gregarious animals, living in communities. These groups of whales are small, with only the current bond between mothers and calves being reliable and stable.One of the reasons why the composition of the groups changes is the strong rivalry that exists between humpback males. This competition is particularly fierce during the mating season, which takes place in the summer. At this point, the males must prevail, because humpback whales are polygamous, meaning they don't have a stable mate.

These cetaceans communicate with each other through vocalizations or songs. These, like the size of the whale, differ by sex. In males, the song is long, complicated and very sonorous, while in females it is weaker and shorter. These songs have an average duration of 10 to 20 minutes and can be repeated continuously throughout the migration.

The song of whales is used to distinguish individuals in a population, since it has been observed that humpback whales in a region all have the same song, which changes over the years. Although it is a very studied song, we still do not know its exact purpose.Some hypotheses suggest that it could serve as a tool for males to attract females, and others say it is an echolocation mechanism.

Regarding their diet, whales have a limitation in food consumption, as they are baleen whales and lack teeth. This causes them to consume very small amounts of food, as they cannot grind or chew. This is why humpback whales feed on krill, tiny crustaceans, and plankton, as well as small fish such as herring or mackerel.

Is the humpback whale endangered?

The humpback whale is in the conservation category of least concern, although it is in decline, according to data from the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources). Although the status of the humpback whale was considered vulnerable a few years ago, populations now appear to have recovered to levels of least concern.

However, this improvement is not present in all subpopulations, as two of them continue to decrease rather than increase. The fact that this species has proven to be so endangered stems from the fact that it was previously targeted by commercial whaling. This practice is now banned, which has allowed people to recover.

Humpback whale pictures

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