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Humpback whales are known for their magical songs, which travel for great distances through the world's oceans. These sequences of moans, howls, cries, and other noises are quite complex and often continue for hours on end. Scientists are studying these sounds to decipher their meaning. It is most likely that humpbacks sing to communicate with others and to attract potential mates.
These whales are found near coastlines, feeding on tiny shrimp-like krill, plankton, and small fish. Humpbacks migrate annually from summer feeding grounds near the poles to warmer winter breeding waters closer to the Equator. Mothers and their young swim close together, often touching one another with their flippers with what appear to be gestures of affection. Females nurse their calves for almost a year, though it takes far longer than that for a humpback whale to reach full adulthood. Calves do not stop growing until they are ten years old.
Humpbacks are powerful swimmers, and they use their massive tail fin, called a fluke, to propel themselves through the water and sometimes completely out of it. These whales, like others, regularly leap from the water, landing with a tremendous splash. Scientists aren't sure if this breaching behavior serves some purpose, such as cleaning pests from the whale's skin, or whether whales simply do it for fun.
Size: Adult males measure 12.2-14.6 m
Adult females measure 13.7-15.2 m. They weigh 22,680-36,287 kg
Its flippers are very long, between 1/4 and 1/3 the length of its body, and have large knobs on the leading edge. The flukes (tail), which can be 15.5 m wide, is serrated and pointed at the tips
Shape: The head of a humpback whale is broad and rounded when viewed from above, but slim in profile
The body is not as streamlined as other rorquals, but is quite round, narrowing to a slender peduncle (tail stock). The top of the head and lower jaw have rounded, bump-like knobs, each containing at least one stiff hair. The purpose of these hairs is not known, though they may allow the whale to detect movement in nearby waters
There are between 20-50 ventral grooves which extend slightly beyond the navel
Color: The body is black on the dorsal (upper) side, and mottled black and white on the ventral (under) side. This color pattern extends to the flukes. When the humpback whale "sounds" (goes into a long or deep dive) it usually throws its flukes upward, exposing the black and white patterned underside. This pattern is distinctive to each whale. The flippers range from all white to all black dorsally, but are usually white ventrally. About 2/3 of the way back on the body is an irregularly shaped dorsal (top) fin.
Lifespan: Humpback whales have a life expectancy of 45-50 years