Fun Humpback Whale Facts

Where do humpback whales live?

Humpback whales can be found in oceans all over the world. They tend to follow regular migration routes each year, where they spend the summer months in temperate and polar waters for feeding and spend the winter months in tropical waters for mating and calving.

How big is an adult humpback?

Male humpback whales measure 38-42 feet long while the females measure 40-45 feet long, which is about the length of a school bus. They can weigh between 35 and 40 tons.

Do humpback whales sleep?

Yes, researchers believe humpback whales sleep by shutting off half of their brain at a time. Unlike humans, they are conscious breathers and have to think about each breath they take.

What do humpback whales eat?

Humpback whales filter krill, anchovies, cod, sardines, mackerel, capelin, and other schooling fish through baleen plates.

How do they feed?

Humpbacks have a series of 270-400 baleen plates instead of teeth. These overlapping plates are made from keratin, the same substance found in your hair and fingernails. To feed, they take in large volumes of water and filter their food through the baleen plates. Adult humpback whales consume more than 1 ton of food per day.

How big is their mouth?

An average size humpback whale can hold approximately 5,000 gallons (18,927 liters) in its mouth. That is enough to fill a 12-by-10 foot swimming pool at a depth of 7 feet.

How much does an adult humpback whale’s brain weigh?

A humpback brain can weigh up to 14 pounds (6 kilograms), nearly 5 times the weight of a human brain.

How long do humpbacks live?

The life expectancy of a humpback whale is 60 – 100+ years. They become sexually mature between the ages of four and eight.

How long does a humpback whale’s pregnancy last?

A humpback’s gestation lasts from 10 to 12 months. Females generally give birth every two years, but a small number have been observed with calves in successive years.

How big is a humpback calf?

A newborn humpback whale calf is approximately 12-15 feet long (3.5 – 4.5 meters) and weighs approximately 1.5 tons.

How long does a humpback calf stay with its mother?

Humpback whale calves stay with their mothers for approximately one year. They are born during the winter months in Australia and Fiji and travel back to Antarctica in the summer for feeding. They may accompany their mothers the following winter on the trip to Australia as yearlings but will become independent during the journey.

On their migration from Antarctica to Australia, how far do they travel and at what speed?

Humpbacks travel around 2,500 km twice a year. They can travel at speeds up to 8 km/hr but most make the journey at slower speeds at around 1.6 km/hr as they rest and socialize along the way.

About how many whales migrate to Australia each year?

At least 1200 whales make the journey from Antarctica to Australia.

Where is the best place to see Humpbacks in Australia?

Anywhere along the New South Wales coastline is a great place to see the whales swim the “humpback highway” during their migration.

What is breaching?

Breaching is when a whale propels >2/3 of its body out of the water. Not much is known about why whales breach but scientists suspect that breaching can be a form of communication, can help dislodge parasites, or may be a form of play.

What is spyhopping?

This is when a whale sticks its head straight up out of the water. They rely on buoyancy control and pectoral fin placement to hold this position for a few minutes at a time.

What is a peduncle?

The peduncle is the body part connecting the tail flukes to the body. Humpbacks will often throw their tail out of the water and slap the peduncle on the surface; this is called a peduncle slap.

How do humpbacks communicate?

The most well-know form of communication is by singing. Male humpbacks will emit a complex series of moans, grunts, shrieks, and blasts that can last up to 30 minutes. All of the singers in a population sing the same version of the song, but the song itself will change over time. Males will usually sing during mating season so scientists suspect they are related to mate selection but some shorter songs seem to be used specifically for feeding. A humpback whale song can travel up to 62 miles (100 kilometers). Another form of communication is body language and movement. Breaching, tail of pectoral slapping, and lunging are all used to communicate with other whales.

How long can a humpback hold its breath?

Adult humpbacks surface every 7-15 minutes to breathe but can remain underwater for up to 45 minutes. Calves must surface every 3-5 minutes. Their lungs can exchange over 90% of the air making them more efficient than ours.

How do scientists identify individual whales?

Scientists are able to identify individual humpback whales through a process called fluke identification. Each whale has a fluke (tail). The distinct black and white patterns on the underside of the fluke and the unique serrated edge of the fluke differentiate between individuals.

What preys on humpback whales?

Killer whales are the main predators, although sharks have been known to attack young, sick, or dead whales. Another threat to humpbacks is human influence.

What human activities harm humpbacks?

Getting hit by boats and becoming entangled in nets and fishing gear are the main sources of activity that threaten humpback whales. Hunting whales made a huge dent in the whale population until it was banned in 1982; federal laws now protect humpback whales from harassment and injury.