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Incredible Humpback Whale Facts

The humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is a species of baleen whale. It is a rorqual; a member of the family Balaenopteridae. Adults range in length from 14–17 m (46–56 ft) and weigh up to 40 metric tons (44 short tons). The humpback has a distinctive body shape, with long pectoral fins and a knobbly head. It is known for breaching and other distinctive surface behaviors, making it popular with whale watchers. Males produce a complex song typically lasting 4 to 33 minutes.

Found in oceans and seas around the world, humpback whales typically migrate up to 16,000 km (9,900 mi) each year. They feed in polar waters and migrate to tropical or subtropical waters to breed and give birth. Their diet consists mostly of krill and small fish. Unique among large whales, humpbacks use bubbles to catch prey. They are promiscuous breeders, with both sexes having multiple partners. Orcas are the main natural predators of humpback whales.

Humpback Whales Migrate The Farthesta

One of the most interesting facts about humpback whales is their ability to migrate as far as 16,000 miles in a year. That’s the most for any extant creature in the animal kingdom. They are known for leaving the polar climates in the summer for the tropical climate in the winter, where they mostly just mate and live off their fast reserves. Talk about a vacation!

Whale Mother-Calf Relationships

Like other whales humpback calf need their mothers. Whales are champion mothers, dedicating months or even years to raise their young. Making her calf her top priority requires an enormous amount of her time and energy. However, these maternal efforts make it possible to ensure the calf’s survival and, ultimately, to continue the lineage.

A humpback whale calf in between 10-16 feet (3-4.5 meters) in length and can weigh up to one ton (907kg). A calf will spend a year nursing on the mother’s rich milk, which is between 45-60% fat. The gestation period of a humpback whale is around 11 months and female humpback whales will give birth every 2-3 years.

All whale species nurse their young for several months, but the exact duration varies from one species to another. Females have two nipples concealed in two small slits on either side of the genital slit, below the belly. Cetaceans lack sucking muscles. Instead, the calf stimulates the nipple by putting pressure on it and milk is then ejected into its mouth. The edge of its tongue is lined with petal-like extensions that are believed to improve suction and even serve to channel the milk toward the throat. With age and as the calf is weaned, these “petals” disappear.

Depending on the species, whale milk contains between 13 and 53% fat. This is much more than in land mammals, which allows the calf to grow quickly. A blue whale calf, for example, puts on 80 kg a day. Females produce milk from the fat reserves under their skin.

Humpback Whales Sing Songs

Humpback whales are also known for their ability to sing songs. The singing is typically done by the males, especially during the winter breeding season. The songs are part of an extended series of calls shared by male humpback whales living within 3,000 miles of one another. A humpback whale song lasts between 10-20 minutes, after which it becomes a repetitive anthem lasting hours.

Research revealed that the songs could change after a while. and all the members of the original humpback whale choir would switch to the new song. Isn’t that fascinating? Even more fascinating is another study that revealed humpback whales in the Oceania region would often arrange a meet at the Kermadec Islands, where they would share their songs.

Humpback Whales Do Not Have Teeth

A cursory look at a humpback whale may lead you to believe it has teeth. However, humpback whales do not. The thing they have that resembles teeth is called baleen plates. The baleen plates look like sieves, and they hang on each side of their jaws.

What purpose do these plates serve? You might ask. Baleen plates are the reason why humpback whales feed by letting in massive amounts of seawater, which is then sieved through the plates, leaving just their prey. Very weird way to eat, right?

That explains why, for a whale that big, its diet consists of small creatures like krills, planktons, sardines, and mackerel, amongst others. Here’s where it gets mind-blowing: humpbacks eat between 3,000-5,000 pounds of food every day, which means they eat incredible amounts of these small creatures to satisfy their daily dietary needs. Incredible stuff!

Humpback Whales Hunt As A Team

While it’s true that humpback whales characteristically travel solo, they sometimes team up to hunt. They have a hunting strategy known as “bubble-netting,” in which they blow bubbles around their prey, causing the fishes to compress together. Once they move up the surface, the humpbacks would then open their mouths and try to swallow as much as they can in one go. Other times, they would add some scary noises into the mix to scare their prey into moving to the surface. Some splendid teamwork there, huh?

Humpback Whales Can Live Up To 80 Years

Remember when we mentioned that humpback whales do not actually have teeth? Well, the absence of teeth has made it difficult for scientists to actually determine their lifespan accurately. However, most scientists believe they live between 80-90 years which is pretty long, even for us humans.

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