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humpback whale

OLogy Series
animal
card
098

humpback whale

OLogy Series
animal

Even though this whale of a whale weighs many tons, the humpback whale can make acrobatic leaps out of the water! The name "humpback" comes from the way they arch their backs as they rise out of the ocean. This endangered whale is also known for its beautiful underwater "songs." Some scientists think these songs may be how whales "talk" to each other.

Helping the Hunted Humpback
Hunting whales has long been a way of life in many cultures. Early whalers used small boats to hunt these 60-ton mammals! Later, whalers used larger ships called schooners to catch many whales on one trip. Whales were primarily hunted for their blubber, fatty material beneath the skin that was used to make oil for lamps since electricity hadn't been invented yet. Whalebones were also used to make jewelry and corsets that ladies wore beneath their dresses. During the 1800s, hunting whales became a big business, and the whale population dropped dramatically. During the 20th century, laws were passed to protect many whale species. Today, there are only about 35,000 humpbacks left. Humpbacks remain on the Endangered Species List, which protects them from whaling. These beautiful mammals have a long way to go, but with our help they are beginning to make a comeback.

How much seafood do humpback whales gobble down each day when feeding?

as much as 30 pounds

as much as 300 pounds

as much as 3,000 pounds

Are you right?

Correct!

These gigantic whales need lots of energy to get around. That's why they eat up to 3,000 pounds of krill, small shrimp-like sea creatures, and small fish each day.

Howard Rosenbaum

By studying humpback whales around the world, we have learned a lot about their biology and behavior, which will hopefully lead to their continued protection and recovery.

Each humpback's tail, known as a fluke, is unique like a human fingerprint.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

No two humpbacks' tails look the same. Scientists use photographs of humpbacks' flukes to help identify individual whales.

Whale songs can last up to 20 minutes and can be heard more than 20 miles away.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

The male humpback may repeat the same 20-minute song for hours. Whales in the same area sing similar songs, but no two songs are exactly alike.

humpback whale
Scientific name: Megaptera novaeangliae
Size: 42 to 52 feet long, 30 to 60 tons
Habitat: migrates and lives in all oceans from the poles to the tropics
Diet: krill and various fish including small schooling fish like herring
Importance: 100,000 were killed by whalers before the humpback was listed as an endangered species

Image credits: courtesy of W.S. Lawton, NMML, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Mammal Laboratory..