Description: Scientific name Megaptera Novaeangliae meaning large winged of New England. This unique name is given to the aquatic animal to describe its large wing shaped pectoral fin or flippers and its first sightings off the coast of New England. Out of all cetaceans, these creatures have the longest pectoral fins. The hump on the structure of its dorsal fin gives it the common name humpback whale. Humpback whales are black or gray in color except for a few body parts such as the flipper which is white, some parts of the chest and stomach. Like fingerprints in humans, each whale has unique patterns on its tail flukes. This is used to identify and different between whales. Humpback is classified under the Baleen whale family, it stands out as one of the largest within this group.
Feeding It feeds on Euphausiids (krill), planktons and various small fishes such as anchovies, sardines, cods, mackerel and salmon. A humpback whale consumes on average 1000 kg of food per day, using sieve-like baleen in its mouth to feed. They feed for 120 days and at least twice daily. The humpback whale has the most diverse food in the baleen whale family. There are seasonal feeders and carnivores. Humpbacks do not have teeth instead they use keratin (same material used to make toenails, hair and fingernails) coated plates called baleen to strain small fishes from water. Each whale has about 250 – 400 baleen plates which line the throat. These dark structures are over 2 feet long.
They have a diverse repertoire of feeding techniques which include the bubble net method which is very popular with Juneau whale watching, where the species for a circle under water to hunt in groups. This group could range from 2 to 60 whales at a time. According to researchers, the bubble net feeding method is acquired, meaning not all humpback whales can execute it. This feeding method involves the whales blowing bubbles to trap the small fishes and shrimp like creatures. The whales advance simultaneously towards the trapped fishes with their mouths open taking in gallons of water and the fishes. Using their baleen, they strain the water from the fishes. This collective feeding method is necessary for their survival, feeding numerous whales at the same time. Lunge feeding involves the humpback whale accelerating and diving at a concentration of small fishes, mouth open, jaw and throat expanded, taking in gallons of water way above its weight. It consumes in some cases 72,000 liters, about the size of a swimming pool all within seconds.
Habitat: Humpback whales can practically be found in every ocean across the world except the Mediterranean, Baltic, Red and Arabian Gulf. In the northern hemisphere, Humpback whales are found around the northern Pacific Ocean ranging from southern Alaska, Prince William Sound and British Columbia. They can be found around the winter season around Hawaii, the Gulf of California, Mexico and Costa Rica. In the North West Atlantic, humpback are generally found around Iceland, Southern Greenland, Norway and the eastern seaboard of North America. They usually migrate south towards the Caribbeans such as Grenada and Bahamas.
Migration is the seasonal movement of a whole population of an animal species from one geographical location to another. Migration is usually necessitated by weather changes or food supply. The humpback whales are seasonal migrants in nature, spending the hot summer seasons within the temperate and subpolar Northern Pacific Ocean such as waters around Alaska, British Columbia and eastern Russia but migrating to warmer tropical climate waters such as Hawaii in the winter to mate and breed. These migratory species travel averagely over a 3000 miles distance and in extreme cases up to 12,000 miles at a speed of 3-9 mph from their feeding grounds in the temperate waters to their breeding grounds in the tropical waters. It is estimated that every winter, over 10,000 humpback whales make the journey from Alaska to Hawaiian waters. After feeding during the winter season, the humpback whale stores fat reserves to live off during the cold season.
Why do humpback whales like Hawaii? These whales migrate to areas that are 75 degrees Fahrenheit, water depth is shallow ranging from 600-650 ft with calm surface conditions. According to researchers. Average breath hold by adult whales is 45 minutes while in Hawaii they rarely hold their breath for more than 10 minutes.
In Hawaii around October ending, the whales begin to show and between April and May, they begin to return, migrating away from the tropical island. The humpback whales do not eat while in Hawaii, they live off blubber. In Hawaii and waters closer to the equator, the fishies humpback whales consume do not live there.