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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
  • GARLAND, E. C., J. GEDAMKE, M. L. REKDAHL, M. J. NOAD, C. GARRIGUE, and N. GALES. 2013. Humpback whale song on the southern ocean feeding grounds: Implications for cultural transmission. PLoS One 8(11):e79422. (.pdf, 4.62 MB).  Online.
  • GARLAND, E. C., M. J. NOAD, A. W. GOLDIZEN, M. S. LILLEY, M. L. REKDAHL, C. GARRIGUE, R. CONSTANTINE, N. D. HAUSER, M. M. POOLE, and J. ROBBINS. 2013. Quantifying humpback whale song sequences to understand the dynamics of song exchange at the ocean basin scale. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 133:560-569. 
  • BURNS, D., L. BROOKS, P. CLAPHAM, and P. HARRISON. 2013. Between-year synchrony in migratory timing of individual humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae. Mar. Mammal Sci. 29(1):228-235. 
  • GARLAND, E. C., M. S. LILLEY, A. W. GOLDIZEN, M. L. REKDAHL, C. GARRIGUE, and M. J. NOAD. 2012. Improved versions of the Levenshtein distance method for comparing sequence information in animals' vocalisations: Tests using humpback whale song. Behaviour 149:1413-1441. 
  • Search the AFSC database for additional Humpback Whale publications
Recent NMML Humpback Whale Posters
  • Identifying of Humpback Whale and Marine Bird Prey Using a Submersible Digital Video Camera
    2.03 MB  Online.
  • Humpback Whale Foraging Structures Winter Schooling Behavior of Pacific Herring
    1.85 MB  Online.
  • Investigating the Feasibility of Using DNA from Sloughed Skin for Individual Identification in Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae)
    551 KB  Online.
  • Search the AFSC database for additional 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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