Humpback Whales (fwd)

From: Pita Admininstrator (pita@whale.wheelock.edu)
Date: Wed Feb 05 2003 - 12:16:12 EST

  • Next message: Kim Marshall: "Breaching whales"

    Subject: Humpback Whales

    Question:
    > Hi Kim,
    > I have to write aresearch paper on an animal of my choice,
    > providing I can show my professor that I can gather all the informatiopn. I
    > really want to do the Humback whale, but so far I have been unable to locate
    > all the research needed to make my paper. Below is a list of specific
    > information that must be contained in my paper . Could you please send me
    > some helpful information on where I could find such detail on the Humpback.
    > The paper must include organism names, phylum, class, genus, species.
    > Internal and external characteristics, habitat, nutient procurement, gas
    > exchange, internal transport, excretion of waste, nervous and chemical
    > control, means of reproduction , means of protection from predetors.
    > Please if yu can help me in any way, I must let my professor know by Feb
    > 13th. I would greatly appreciate any advice or informaion you could send my
    > way.
    > Thankyou, Sincerely Jackie Nelson
    >
    Reply: Hello Jackie, You will be able to find a lot of information about
    humpback whales including what you need to include in your paper. I suggest
    using WhaleNet¹s species/classification information page at
    http://whale.wheelock.ede/whalenet-stuff/classifications.html. Below is
    some general information about humpback whales:

    HUMPBACK WHALE (MEGAPTERA NOVAENGLIEAE)

    Description:
    … With its Latin name, Megaptera novaenglieae, meaning ³long winged from New
    England,² this genus is aptly named for its gargantuan flippers which are
    nearly a third of the whales¹ body length.
    … The bump just in front of the dorsal fin as well as the series of bumps on
    the back, behind the fin on some of these whales inspired the whales¹ common
    name, humpback.
    … Humpback whales are among the larger of the baleen cetaceans, averaging 19
    meters in length and weighing up to 48 tons.
    … Humpbacks are black or gray in color, with patches of white on the throat
    and belly. Humpbacks are noted for their slim heads covered with knobs and
    their robust bodies.
    … The humpbacks show much more dexterity with their flippers than other
    whale species. They use their flippers to herd or stun fish, guide calves,
    signal position, or show aggression. Some scientists believe that the
    whales may wave their flippers to help cool off on the tropical end of their
    migration range. The bones in the humpbacks¹ flippers are similar to those
    in the arms and hands of humans.
    … Humpbacks often raise their flukes out of the water to signal a deep dive.
    The visible, ventral side of the flukes can be black, white or any
    combination in between. The trailing edge of the flukes is irregular and
    saw-toothed in shape. The patterns of black and white and the additions of
    scars and barnacles serve as a ³fingerprint² to identify individual whales.
    By studying photographs of these flukes, scientists can collect information
    on the migration, life histories, and population abundance of these whales.
    … Humpbacks are also distinguished by the fleshy knobs dotting the top of
    the head, each containing a single, stiff hair. These knobs, colloquially
    known as ³stovebolts,² may help the whale to detect prey or water currents.
    … Humpbacks have tall, dark brown baleen plates approximately 2-2 1/2 feet
    long and numbering 240 to 380 on each side of the upper jaw. They feed
    mostly on krill, but will also eat cod, capelin, mackerel, herring, and
    zooplankton such as sand lance.
    Natural History
    … Humpback whales exhibit gregarious behavior, most prevalent during
    breeding and feeding seasons, when they may be found in groups of 12-15.
    The humpbacks migrate from high latitude feeding grounds to winter breeding
    grounds, located along shallow tropical coasts.
    … Females reproduce approximately every 2 years, giving birth to a single
    calf who is then nursed for 11 months.
    … Although they are not very fast swimming creatures, great energy--along
    with grace and acrobatic skill--is displayed when the humpback plunges clear
    out of the water, in a performance more aerial and animated than any other
    large whale. This act is termed breaching, a trademark of the humpback, and
    a behavior whose significance is not clearly understood.
    … Humpbacks have several different ways of feeding. When lunge feeding the
    whales swim through schools of fish or krill with their mouths open,
    scooping up their prey. At other times humpbacks may use their flukes to
    push food into their mouths, a method which is called fluke feeding. A
    third feeding method, bubble feeding, is unique to humpbacks. When bubble
    feeding a whale will swim in lines or circles, releasing air bubbles which
    herd fish and krill. Once the prey become surrounded by the bubble net, the
    whale swims through with its mouth open, collecting fish, krill and water in
    its expanding throat. The whale then pushes the water back out through its
    baleen plates. A humpback can trap up to 100 pounds of food at a time. On
    average, humpbacks eat between 3,000-4,000 pounds of food each day.
    … In 1967, Dr. Roger Payne, along with colleague Scott McVay, discovered and
    recorded what is perhaps the humpbacks¹ most phenomenal and extraordinary
    feature: its melodious, eerie, haunting song. It is this song--a rhyme the
    singer performs in repeated patterns--which distinguishes humpbacks from all
    other species of whales. Although other cetaceans vocalize a variety of
    sounds, none but the humpback emits a complex and precise song consisting of
    a definite sequence and order of themes, subdivided into phrases, and broken
    down into even smaller components known as syllables. These songs are
    thought to be audible to whales within a range of 19 to as far as 115 miles,
    although the most recent research suggests that some songs may be heard over
    distances of up to 1,000 miles. The duration of a song may range from 7-30
    minutes, and the songs are repeated without any significant pause.
    … The humpback¹s song is an important part of its behavior. Each major
    stock, separated by geographic area, has its own song. So far, scientists
    have identified three basic dialects. The song sequence changes
    approximately every year simultaneously in all members of the population.
    Studies suggest that songs are almost always confined to the breeding
    grounds, and that the singer is the male of the species. Therefore, it is
    hypothesized that the song may act as a form of sexual selection: it may
    serve to define territory or as a form of courtship. Although many
    questions remain to be answered--such as the function of the song, the
    physiological method used to produce such vocalizations, the reason for
    changing the song , and the way the humpback can remember the complex
    rhythms--research is continually shedding light on the mysteries of the
    humpback song.

    Status
    … As is the case for many other cetaceans, there has been a huge depletion
    of the population of humpbacks due to commercial whaling. Their
    characteristic slowness in movement, shallow water migration path and their
    congregational tendencies have made humpbacks easy prey to whalers. The
    world population of humpbacks today is approximately 10,000, with
    2,000-4,000 located in the western North Atlantic. Although showing signs
    of recovery under protection, the humpback is still listed under vulnerable
    condition. Whaling has been prohibited in most regions, yet humpback
    mortality still persists today, and is still due mostly to anthropogenic
    factors such as pollution, entanglement in fishing gear, and other types of
    habitat disturbance.



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