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Interesting Facts about Humpback Whales

Check out these humpback whale facts to learn more about this amazing species.
By Scuba Diving Editors | Authored On February 2, 2017
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Interesting Facts about Humpback Whales

Breaching humpback whale

A humpback whale breaches in Alaska.

Shutterstock.com/Alexey Suloev

Humpback whales were once hunted to the brink of extinction for their meat and oil. Before whaling was banned in the 1970s, estimates of their global population dipped as low as 10,000. Conservation work around the world has helped the global humpback whale population rise to about 80,000, though they are still considered an endangered species.

1. What do humpback whales eat?

The humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is a species of baleen whale, meaning its mouth contains a plate with bristles attached to it, which capture small prey like small fish, krill, salmon, herring and mackerel. Humpbacks have from 270 to 400 darkly colored baleen plates on each side of their mouths.

2. How do humpback whales hunt for food?

During the humpbacks’ feeding season, these whales hunt using a technique known as bubble net fishing — a group of humpback whales swim around their prey in a circle and blow bubbles around their prey in order to herd the fish into a tight ball.

3. How big is a humpback whale?

Ever wonder how much a humpback whale weighs? Or how long a humpback whale can get? The weight, length and overall size of humpback whales will vary greatly throughout their lifespan. Fully grown males are slightly smaller (43 to 46 feet) than females (49-52 feet). Adult humpback whales can weigh as much as 40 tons or more.

4. How big is a baby humpback whale?

Newborn humpback calves are about the length of their mother's head. At birth, calves are about 20 feet long and weigh 2 short tons (most cars weigh about 1/2 ton). They nurse for about six months.

5. What’s interesting about the tail of humpback whales? Like a human fingerprint, the tail of each humpback whale is unique. A photographic catalog of all known North Atlantic whales is maintained by College of the Atlantic.

6. Does a humpback whale have more than one blowhole? Another characteristic that is unique to baleen whales such as the humpback is the presence of two blowholes on top of their heads.

7. Do humpback whales sing? Humpback whales are known for their beautiful songs, which are often heard during mating season. In addition to being used in their mating rituals, whale songs are also believed to be used as other forms of communication, though this is poorly understood. The songs are described as a combination of moans, cries and howls and can be heard underwater for many miles.