Subject: Humpback Whales

Tokitae (tokitae@bellsouth.net)
Thu, 8 Jan 1998 21:15:12 -0500 (EST)

>I am a senior in highschool and I am writing a detailed paper for my
>Oceanography Semester Exam.  I would appreciate any general or specific
>information you could give me that would aid me in my paper.

This is such a general question that I don't really know where to begin.
Perhaps you could emphasize the vast expanses of ocean that are used by
humpbacks. In each ocean of the world humpbacks spend about around 9 months
of each year in the colder latitudes, using a variety of strategies to
engulf huge quantities of small fish or krill, usually only 2 or 3 inches
long, into their dumpster-sized mouths. Then they travel thousands of miles
each winter toward tropical waters to certain areas where members of
populations that are otherwise spread out over entire ocean rims gather into
shallow wates of only a few hundred square miles. There in those warm waters
they mate and give birth to calves. The mating is a very vigorous activity
in which groups of males chase females around for miles. There is lots of
breaching and slapping of tails and pectoral fins. This is where the famous
song of the humpback whale is sung. It is sung by the males to advertise
their availability to the females.

During this two or three months in warm waters humpbacks don't eat. This 3
or 4 month fast is especially amazing for the females, most of which give
birth to calves that begin to nurse 50 or more gallons of extremely rich
milk each day. The females travel with their calves the 2 or 3 thousand
miles back to the rich continental shelves before they will find food and
begin replenishing their blubber and fat supplies that have been depleted to
feed their calves. 

So try to imagine each ocean of the world, the North and South Atlantic, the
North and South Pacific, and the Indian Ocean, as home to entire populations
of thousands of humbpacks, which spread out along the cooler contintental
shelves for most of each year, then meet for mating and calving during the
winter of each year.

There is much more to learn about humpbacks. I would suggest you go to your
library and look up books on the subject of humpback whales. You could start
by going to the WhaleNet bibliography for humpbacks, which is at:
http://whale.wheelock.edu/whalenet-stuff/bib_hump_whale.html

Good luck.

Howard Garrett
Lolita Project
tokitae@bellsouth.net