The Beacon

Fact of the Day: Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale (credit: Wanetta Ayers)

Today’s FOTD is about the humpback whale. These giants grow up to 50 feet long and weigh up to 40 tons. They are highly migratory and spend their summers feeding in the nutrient-rich polar waters and travel to tropical waters to breed.

There is little food for humpbacks in the warm waters of the tropics so they essentially live off their fat reserves, which they build up during their summers in the polar waters.

Humpbacks are baleen whales, which means they have plates that filter out food from the water rather than having teeth. They eat krill, plankton, and small schooling fish, like herring or mackerel.  Humpbacks often feed by using a technique called “bubble-netting.”  Working in teams, they encircle a school of fish and create a wall of bubbles around the fish, which confuses and frightens the fish into an even tighter group. The whales then attack their prey from below, taking huge mouthfuls of fish at a time. 

In order to orchestrate such elaborate feedings, humpback whales use their unique style of communication.  Humpbacks have large variation in their communication, from long, melodic songs to short clicks to slapping the surface of the water with their large fins. 

For more on these and other amazing marine animals check out Oceana.org/Explore!

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