INFORMATION ABOUT HUMPBACK WHALES
Introduction

 
 
 

Humpback whales belong to the Order Mysticeti, which means baleen whales.  Baleen whales have no teeth, instead they have baleens that are made out of keratin, like our fingernails, that hang from the upper jaw and are used to filter their food. Within the Mysticetes, Humpbacks belong to the Family Balaenopteridae or rorquals, like the blue whale, the biggest animal that exists in the planet.  Rorquals distinctive feature is that they have a sleek body form and ventral grooves that work as an accordion that expands when they are feeding, so they are able to get into their mouths and throats huge amounts of water in just one mouthful.

 
 
   
 
 

CHARACTERISTICS
Humpbacks are 'rorquals', whales which have distinctive throat grooves. They also have knobs on their heads known as 'tubercles', each of which has a long coarse hair growing from it which is believed to act as a sensor. They have very long flippers (more correctly known as 'pectoral fins') with knobs on the front edge, and a humped dorsal fin. They are blackish, with white undersides and sides.

The underside of the tail fluke is usually white with black patterning, which is unique to each humpback, like a fingerprint, so can be used to identify individual whales! Males average 14.6 meters and females 15.2 meters long. The maximum length is 18 meters and a mature adult may weigh up to 45 tones. Humpback whales have a life expectancy of 45 to 50 years.

MIGRATORY ROUTES
Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) undertake the longest migration of all marine mammals, from their feeding grounds in polar waters to tropical and subtropical areas for breeding.
Successful mating, calving, maternal care and calf learning are important processes occurring in such areas where surface activity is particularly intense (e.g. Félix, 2004).
The temporal and spatial distribution and group composition of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) were studied by Pacífico Adventures in order to provide new information about the species in northern Peru. Our data confirms breeding and nursing activities in the southern limit of the wintering area for the Southeast Pacific group. Thus, strengthening the current protection measures is encouraged.

 
 
   
 
 

BEHAVIOUR
High energy activities performed by Humpback Whales, may serve for diverse social functions. These following behaviors must be interpreted in the full context of the season and its location for us to understand their significance and purpose.

Feeding: Humpbacks are ‘baleen' whales, so instead of teeth they have 270-400 baleen plates which hang from the top jaw. They feed by taking big gulps of water and filtering shrimp-like krill and small fish between these plates. Humpbacks use a hunting technique known as ‘bubble netting'. They swim in a spiral underneath a school of fish or krill blowing lots of bubbles. This creates a net of bubbles that traps a giant mass of krill. They then swim up the centre with their mouths open and have a huge feast on their favourite food.

HUMPBACK WHALE SONGS
Humpbacks produce a wide variety of sounds, including the highest and the lowest frequencies humans can hear, with an extraordinary range of tonal qualities.  How humpbacks create these sounds is unknown since they do not have functional vocal cords.  Some evidence suggests that the sounds are produced by various valves, muscles, and a series of blind sacks found branching off the respiratory tract (Kaufman & Forestell, 2002).
All the singers in a particular population sing basically the same version at any one time (McSweeney et al., 1989). Singing is a primary activity of humpbacks in their winter breeding grounds. Singing during the mating season plays a very important role for the reproductive success of humpback males (Baker & Herman, 1984).

THREATS
In the past, humpback whales were heavily exploited by commercial whalers all around the world, hunted for their oil, meat and whalebone. Hunting was banned in 1963 after the species became nearly extinct. In 2007, the Japanese proposed to resume killing the humpback for so-called ‘scientific purposes', but gave them a last-minute reprieve.
Other threats to humpback whales include them ingesting plastic, which accumulates in their gut and leads to a slow death, and becoming entangled in crayfish lines and pots. Supported by the Department of Environment and Conservation, the Western Rock Lobster Council has introduced a Code of Practice to help reduce whale entanglements. Natural predators include killer whales which prey on the young humpback calves

 
 
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