12 Interesting Humpback Whale Facts For Kids [2024 Updated]
The humpback whale is a baleen whale renowned for its extravagant mating songs and theatrics. Humpback whales are 12 to 16 meters long, weighing around 36 metric tonnes. There are about 30 large ventral grooves on its throat and breast, with a black upper surface and a varying amount of white beneath. The long, narrow flippers of this cetacean, nearly a third of the body’s length and scalloped on the forward edge, set it apart from other baleen whales. Large knobs can be seen on the humpback’s head, mouth, and body; each knob corresponds to one or two hairs.
The oceans’ coasts are where humpback whales live, sporadically approaching the land and even entering harbors and rivers. Krill, tiny fish, and plankton are the main components of the humpback whale’s diet, which it extracts from the ocean with its baleen.
Learn more about humpback whales in the facts below.
12 fun facts about humpback whales.
1. The whale gets its name from the hump on its back.
The distinctive hump on the back of the humpback whale is where it derives its common name. Its scientific term, Megaptera, which means “big-winged,” and novaeangliae, which refers to the region where European whalers first saw them, were inspired by the length of its pectoral fins. This dorsal fin is short and stubby compared to other whales and dolphins. When they rise and bend their backs in preparation for a dive, this hump is highlighted.
2. Humpback whales are enormous.
Approximately the size of a bus, humpback whales can reach lengths of 15 to 19 meters and weigh up to 40 tonnes. Their long, awkward-appearing pectoral fins are one of their most prominent and distinguishing characteristics. These have the potential to reach lengths of around 5 meters, making them comparatively the longest flippers of any baleen whale. Adult males are a little smaller than adult females, who average 49 feet (15m) in length and weigh about 35 tonnes. Humpback whales are the second largest in the world; the first is blue whales.
3. Humpback whales have been on earth for 45 million years.
Humpback whales are among the top 10 oldest living whales on earth. It is thought that all whales, both toothed and baleen, descended from hoofed creatures like cows and sheep about 45 million years ago. This is roughly 40 million years before humans! Recent gene-to-gene comparisons of several milk proteins have supported this relationship and suggested that the hippopotamus may be the closest relative of whales to live on land. Cetaceans have evolved to be well-adapted to aquatic environments and are practically unable to leave them. To survive in their marine habitat, members of the Order Cetacea have experienced several changes or adaptations. For example, their bodies have changed to become more streamlined for swimming.
4. Humpback whales live up to 100 years.
Humpback whales have a lifespan of 45 to 50 years, meaning they undergo their annual migration numerous times. Nevertheless, there have been hints that the species can live for far more extended periods—in some exceptional instances, scientists have estimated that wild humpback whales live up to 100 years. The International Whaling Commission has prohibited all killings of these whales since 1966 to ensure more humpback whales live a longer and safer life.
5. Humpback whales breach out of the water.
The act of a humpback propelling itself above the water before splashing back down is known as breaching. The NOAA claims they also slap the water with their tails or flippers. It’s a common belief that whales breach to send each other signals. A change in swimming direction, mating cry, or warning signal for approaching predators are just some examples of communication. When the environment becomes busy, humpback whale companions may not hear their average underwater song; humpback whales are likely to breach as a means of communication. They can also use this time to observe what’s happening above the water and evaluate their environment. According to some scientists, breaching is a strategy used by whales to mark their area and defend themselves. A whale may do this if it detects an impending threat, such as other animals or even a ship. A whale might intimidate the perceived threat by breaching to claim dominance over a particular area.
6. Humpback whales are known for their mating songs.
According to National Geographic, humpback whales are renowned for their eerie songs, which are elaborate sequences of groans, screams, and cries that frequently last for hours. Scientists believe that since only male whales sing, they lure possible partners.
A male humpback whale may sing for hours, frequently repeating the same tune. The songs of each population are distinct, even though all males in a population sing the same song. According to the NOAA, for instance, whales in the North Atlantic sing one song, while whales in the North Pacific sing a different tune. Songs continuously evolve from one season to the next. According to the NOAA, songs can be heard from 20 km away. The audio frequency of whale sounds ranges typically from 80 to 4,000 hertz, but in 2015, scientists discovered humpback vocalizations at a frequency of about 40 hertz. Human hearing is only capable of 20 hertz.
7. Humpback whales usually travel alone.
According to scientists, humpback whales typically cruise alone or in tiny groups called pods that include two or three whales. When in a group, they converse and move around together. Mothers and their young have even been known to touch fins as a probable show of affection. Even on occasion, they cooperate to hunt. In the summer, groups may stick together a little longer to forage and corporately feed. Although they have been seen, long-term partnerships that endure months or even years are uncommon.
8. Humpback whales have a unique feeding filter system.
Since humpback whales are baleen whales, they have specialized filter-feeding mechanisms inside their mouths. They use baleen plates, made of fringed brushes that emerge in rows from the upper jaw, to filter their food. They swallow copious amounts of water, forcing it out through their plates to imprison their prey inside. Small crustaceans called krill, and other tiny invertebrates make up most of this prey, although it may also include schooling fishes like anchovies, sardines, and mackerel.
9. Humpback whales have a unique feeding strategy.
Humpback whales are called “gulpers,” which means they feed by keeping their mouths open and gulping down anything coming their way. Then, they close their mouths, forcing the water out through their baleen plates, and ingest the creatures they caught, typically fish and small crustaceans.
Within a group of whales, a cooperative hunting tactic called bubble-net feeding is used. It is a complicated, highly synchronized collection of collaborative and communicative activities that exhibits great social intelligence. To bubble-net feed, humpback whales utilize their blowholes to blow bubbles that stun and capture fish on the surface while they dive deep beneath schools of fish to feed. Usually, one whale takes the initiative first, then the others. The leader is often in charge of blowing the bubbles, and the other group members will surround the fish by swimming in spiral patterns to follow them to the top and trap them. The humpback whales swimming toward the surface during bubble net feeding will have their mouths open and gulp fish from the school they have captured.
10. Humpback whales have a long migration range.
Being a migratory species, humpback whales spend their summers in temperate and subpolar waters while mating and giving birth in tropical and subtropical waters nearer the equator. Although you can spot humpback whales year-round in Alaska, most individuals spend the winter in warm or tropical waters close to Mexico, Hawaii, and the western Pacific near Japan. The Arabian Sea has a year-round population, an exception to this rule. Migrations can cover up to 3,000 miles in each direction. The animals return to Alaska in the spring because there is plenty of food. They frequently gather in many places, including Southeast Alaska, Kodiak, the Barren Islands, Prince William Sound, and the Aleutian Islands.
11. Female humpback whales give birth every three years.
After the humpback whales have migrated away from the summer feeding grounds, mating occurs in the tropics during winter. Males mature sexually at age 7, whereas females do so at age 5. Males form groups and compete among themselves for dominance. Charges, breaches, “spy-hopping” (when whales float with their heads above water), and lob-tailing are a few examples of these conflicts (slapping the water with their flukes to create a big sound). After the humpback whales have migrated away from the summer feeding grounds, mating occurs in the tropics during winter.
A female humpback gives birth to a youngster every two to three years. They gestate their young for roughly 12 months. The infants can weigh up to a tonne and range in length from 3 to 4.5 meters.
It takes the calves almost a year to nurse. Scientists estimate that their mother’s milk contains between 45 and 60 percent fat. About 158 gallons of milk can be consumed daily by calves. Calves continue to grow until they are ten years old, even though they double in length in the first year.
12. Humpback whales are friendly.
Although humpback whales tend to be loners who only occasionally gather for feeding or mating, they are amicable to other marine animals. They have even been observed interacting with other species of whales and dolphins. Since humpback whales are typically peaceful and non-aggressive, they rarely hurt a human. However, they are enormous, curious, and occasionally approach boats. It is likely for humpback whales to breach and damage ships because of their acrobatic inclinations. However, this is exceedingly uncommon as they often pay attention to their surroundings and steer clear of boats and swimming humans.
Known as the giant sea sirens, humpback whales are a magical creation of nature. They are friendly and acrobatic and have stood the test of time and evolution since before humans.