Humpback WhalesThe Wings of the Sea
Humpback Whale - Megaptera novaeangliae
Humpbacks can be found in all the oceans and seas of the world, and tend to migrate up to 25,000 Km/year. They feed spring through summer, in polar waters off the coast of Alaska, mainly on krill and small fish. They use many different techniques for feeding which are discussed later. In fall, Humpbacks migrate over 4000 miles to their breeding grounds of the coasts of Japan, Hawaii, and Mexico, where the water is much warmer. During the winter, Humpbacks live off their fat stores of blubber for energy, while breeding and raising calves. Researchers identify four distinct global populations of Humpback: North Pacific, Atlantic, and 2 more populations in southern oceans.
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- Unusually long pectoral fins, which are black on top and white underneath.
- The entire body is black on top, with varying pigment patterns on the underbelly.
- Their head looks knobby, due to tubercles, which are unique to Humpbacks.
- The undersides of all Humpback tails are unique, making this an ideal way to identify them.
In the winter, Humpbacks migrate to their breeding grounds, some of which are off of Cabo San Lucas, allowing us a spectacular opportunity to see these whales returning to give birth and nurture their calves. When Humpback calves are first born they measure between 12-16 feet long and may weigh around 3 tons. Just like humans, these mammals are nursed by their mother, for approximately 6 months, they are then sustained for another 6 months on a mixture of nursing along with independent hunting. They grow approximately 25-30 ft by the end of their first year, when they gain independence from their mother. Females reach sexual maturity at the age of 5, but do not reach full adult size for several more years. Researchers have recently discovered males reach sexual maturity around 7 years of age. Females typically breed every two or three years, although some have been found to breed in consecutive seasons.