whales

From: Phil Clapham (pclapham@mercury.wh.whoi.edu)
Date: Fri Oct 08 2004 - 12:42:52 EDT

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    Hi there

    Thanks for the questions...

    > Are North American Humpbacks the same as Australian Humpbacks?
    Nope, they're not. They're two separate populations. The North Atlantic
    animals feed in several places in summer, everywhere from the US east
    coast to Greenland and Norway; and in winter they migrate to (mostly) the
    West Indies as well as some other places to breed and calve. The
    Australian humpbacks feed in Antarctica in your summer, and migrate along
    the east and west coasts of Australia in winter. By and large, your west
    and east coast humpbacks are two separate populations, though there seems
    to be a bit of mixing.

    > Is it really true that humpbacks have a four-chambered heart that on
    > average weighs 195Kg?
    Will have to look that one up, but yes, that sounds right. The heart of a
    really big blue whale is actually the size of a car!

    > I know that female humpbacks can grow to 16m (53 feet) but how big is a
    > baby hump back?
    Humpbacks are on average about 4.3 m long at birth, and weigh half to 3/4
    of a ton.

    > Why do female whales come through with their calves at the end of the
    > season and not with the males at the start of the migration back to
    > Antarctica?
    Well, females are often accompanied by males (whether they like it or
    not!) We're not entirely sure, but some females with calves may avoid
    males because they don't want the calf to be disturbed. Females with
    calves tend to migrate back to the Antarctic later than other whales,
    probably so their calves have a chance to grow a bit and gain strength in
    the warm waters before they migrate. Females who are newly pregnant are
    among the first whales to leave for the Antarctic - they have to spend a
    lot of time down there feeding, packing on weight in preparation for
    nursing after their calf is norn (pregnancy is about 11.5 months in a
    humpback whale, and it costs a lot of energy to produce all that milk for
    the calf).

    > And how long do baby hump backs suckle for?
    Well, they're with their mothers for about a year before they separate.
    they probably take only milk for around 6 months, then start to learn how
    to feed on fish and krill, and probably for some time they're taking both
    milk and "real" food at the same time.

    Best wishes,

    Phil Clapham

    > Yours truly
    > Gypsie



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