Humpback Whale Description

breaching whale showing off with its great wingsAlthough they have the general shape of a fish, Humpback Whales are mammals. They are warm blooded, breath air and bear live young and nurse them with milk.

The humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae is aptly named from the Greek megas meaning great and pteron, a wing, because of its huge wing like flippers. The pectoral fins of the Humpback Whale are up to 5 metres (15 feet) in length, one third of the animals total length.

breaching whale showing throat pleats These marine mammals are superbly adapted to a life of swimming and diving, whale showing its pectoral finsand are playful and inquisitive by nature. Their size belies their grace in the water. There are no more than 5000 individuals in the Southern Hemisphere.

They are the third most endangered whale species in the world, after the bowhead and right whales and are totally protected.They grow up to 15m (50 feet) long and can weigh up to 45,000kg (99,000lbs) - equivalent to 11 elephants or 600 persons each.

They have a stocky body with a broad, rounded head and extremely long flippers, which colour is generally blackish with a white area covering the throat grooves.

humpback whale headThey have up to 22 throat grooves running along the belly from the chin to the navel. The flippers are almost pure white below and mottled black and white above.

whale flukesThe underside of the tail flukes is marked with a variable pattern of white, making each whale recognisable at the surface as it throws

A series of knobby protuberances on the head, jaws and flippers often have large barnacles growing on their summits. Each bump has a long coarse hair growing from its centre. These are believed to act as sensors.

All photographs shown on this page arecopyright © 1997 Seaspray Charters - used with permission.

humpback INTROhumpback whale - feeding