Subject: Humpback Whales
> 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
> 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)
… 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
… 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.
… 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
… 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
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