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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.

MML Research Recent MML Humpback Whale Publications
  • RIEKKOLA, L., V. ANDREWS-GOFF, A. FRIEDLAENDER, R. CONSTANTINE, and A. N. ZERBINI. 2019. Environmental drivers of humpback whale foraging behavior in the remote Southern Ocean. J. Exper. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 517:1-12.  Online.
  • STEEL, D., M. ANDERSON, C. GARRIGUE, C. OLAVARRÍA, S. CABALLERO, S. CHILDERHOUSE, P. CLAPHAM, R. CONSTANTINE, S. DAWSON, M. DONOGHUE, L. FLÓREZ-GONZÁLEZ, N. GIBBS, N. HAUSER, M. OREMUS, D. PATON, M. M. POOLE, J. ROBBINS, L. SLOOTEN, D. THIELE, J. WARD, and C. S. BAKER. 2018. Migratory interchange of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) among breeding grounds of Oceania and connections to Antarctic feeding areas based on genotype matching. Polar Biol. 41:653-662.   Online.
  • CLAPHAM, P. 2018. Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae, pp. 489-492 In: B. Würsig, J. G. M. Thewissen, and K. M. Kovacs, (editors). Encyclopedia of marine mammals, 3rd edition. Academic Press, London, San Diego. 1157p. 
  • RIEKKOLA, L., A. N. ZERBINI, O. ANDREWS, V. ANDREWS-GOFF, C. S. BAKER, D. CHANDLER, S. CHILDERHOUSE, P. CLAPHAM, R. DODÉMONT, D. DONNELLY, A. FRIEDLAENDER, R. GALLEGO, C. GARRIGUE, Y. IVASHCHENKO, S. JARMAN, R. LINDSAY, L. PALLIN, J. ROBBINS, D. STEEL, J. TREMLETT, S. VINDENES, and R. CONSTANTINE. 2018. Application of a multi-disciplinary approach to reveal population structure and Southern Ocean feeding grounds of humpback whales. Ecol. Indicat. 89:455-465.   Online.
  • Search the AFSC database for additional Humpback Whale publications
Recent MML Humpback Whale Posters
Humpback Whale Stock Assessment Reports
MML Education Web (these pages are targeted toward students!) Management Humpback Whale Images Other links

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