Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)
Photograph by James D. Watt
(PHYLUM: Chordata, CLASS: Mammalia, ORDER: Cetacea,
Humpback whales are widespread across the globe and
occur in both polar and tropical waters. They are found in the Atlantic
Ocean, Pacific Ocean and Arctic Oceans. There are an estimated 7,000
humpbacks on Earth. Humpbacks are one of only a few species in which
the females are larger than the males. It is the females who bring
up the calves after the winter mating season and the gestation period
of 11-11.5 months.
It is believed that humpback whales do not have a sense of smell as
their olfactory organs are very small. They also have tiny eyes, which
are adapted to withstand the water pressure that they experience.
Their ear channels are thin and lead to minute holes just behind the
By far the most distinctive external features of the humpback whale
are the flippers. These are quite long and can be up to a third of
the body length. They are largely white and have individual markings,
caused by parasites and scarring.
The humpback has a thick layer of blubber. The only animal with a
thicker layer is the blue whale. Humpbacks feed during the summer
on plankton and animal life at the surface. They feed by taking water
and food into their mouths. They then close their mouths and push
the water out again, catching the food in baleen plates before swallowing
it. Humpbacks are famous for some unusual feeding habits and in fact
gain their name from their habit of rounding their backs whilst diving
for food. One of these methods is the 'lunging' technique, in which
they dive under an aggregation of fish or prey, before resurfacing
with their mouths wide open to let the prey pour in.
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