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Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)

The humpback whale is distributed worldwide in all ocean basins, though in the North Pacific it does not occur in Arctic waters. In winter, most humpback whales occur in the subtropical and tropical waters of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. The North Pacific population was considerably reduced as a result of intensive commercial exploitation during the 20th century and recovery has been very slow. Photo ID studies indicate that humpback whales from the Western and Central North Pacific mix on summer feeding grounds in the central Gulf of Alaska and perhaps the Bering Sea. Females normally reproduce every two or three years, giving birth to a calf that is 4.5 to 5 m long; it has grown to about 8 or 9 m when it is weaned at 10 or 11 months. The gestation period is 12 months. Adult males are 15 m long and adult females slightly larger at 16 m. Humpback whales in the high latitudes of the North Pacific are seasonal migrants that feed on krill and small schooling fishes. They frequently employ an interesting feeding behavior called bubble net feeding in which they surround a school of schooling fish with a curtain of bubbles.

NMML Research Recent NMML Humpback Whale Publications
  • GARRIGUE, C., P. J. CLAPHAM, Y. GEYER, A. S. KENNEDY, and A. N. ZERBINI. 2015. Satellite tracking reveals novel migratory patterns and the importance of seamounts for endangered South Pacific humpback whales. Royal Soc. Open Sci. 2(11):11 p.  Online.
  • GARLAND, E. C., A. W. GOLDIZEN, M. S. LILLEY, M. L. REKDAHL, C. GARRIGUE, R. CONSTANTINE, N. D. HAUSER, M. M. POOLE, J. ROBBINS, and M. J. NOAD. 2015. Population structure of humpback whales in the western and central South Pacific Ocean as determined by vocal exchange among populations. Conser. Biol. 29(4):1198-1207. 
  • WITTEVEEN, B. H., A. De ROBERTIS, L. GUO, and K. M. WYNNE. 2015. Using dive behavior and active acoustics to assess prey use and partitioning by fin and humpback whales near Kodiak Island, Alaska. Mar. Mammal Sci. 31:255-278. 
  • De CASTRO, F. R., N. MAMEDE, D. DANILEWICZ, Y. GEYER, J. L. A. PIZZORNO, A. N. ZERBINI, and A. ANDRIOLO. 2014. Are marine protected areas and priority areas for conservation representative of humpback whale breeding habitats in the western South Atlantic? Biol. Conserv. 179:106-114. 
  • Search the AFSC database for additional Humpback Whale publications
Recent NMML Humpback Whale Posters
Humpback Whale Stock Assessment Reports
NMML Education Web (these pages are targeted toward students!) Management Humpback Whale Images Other links

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