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Humpback Whale - Megaptera novaeangliae
Humpback whales are so called because of the habit of raising and bending the back in preparation for a dive, accentuating the hump in front of the dorsal fin. They have relatively the longest flippers of any baleen whale which may be up to a third of the total body length, these have a range of uses from feeding to social signaling.
These are probably the best known of the large whales as they often collect in groups along coasts where they feed and breed, drawing attention to themselves by their behavior. Breaching, lob tailing and flipper-slap are common and often occur several times in a row.
Humpbacks are slow swimmers and so allow tourist boats - and in the past, whalers - to get close. They can swim at
The skin is covered with a whole range of warts and bumps and there is a particularly rich fauna of barnacles that encrust the whale (there are whole groups of "whale barnacles" types that are found nowhere else but on whales).
The bushy "blow" of a humpback whale from the double blowhole is quite characteristic, even at a distance.
Like other baleen whales, the food of humpbacks is small plentifully abundant schooling fishes and large zooplankton. The precise diet is almost certainly different for different populations though has not been studied in any detail for the majority. In Antarctica, the diet is dominated by krill (like almost every other mammal in Antarctica). In other seas, the diet may include anchovies, mackerel, sand eels, herring, capelin, pollock and cod.
Humpbacks have a wide range of feeding methods such as:
As well as cooperative behavior, competition has been seen between animals feeding together in large fish or plankton concentrations. The whales have been observed rushing to the surface together while pushing and shoving each other with mouths full and throats distended. Humpbacks feed mainly during the summer season in high latitudes in the Arctic or Antarctic and do not feed during the winter while on the breeding grounds.
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