Humpback whale or as this animal is affectionately called, the long-armed minke is a large aquatic mammal that lives in the seas and oceans around the world. The humpback whale is considered to be one of the most mobile whales, who are satisfied with these performances, jumping out of the water, and flopping loudly back onto the water. For acrobatic numbers, whales have gained a reputation as funny whales.
Origin of view and description
Photo: Humpback Whale
Megaptera novaeangliae The humpback or humpback whale is a very large aquatic mammal that belongs to the family of striped whales, a suborder of baleen whales. Type of humpback. Whales are mammals, and their ancestors are the ancient predatory ungulates-mezzanine. Animals are somewhat similar in appearance to wolves with hooves and sharp claws on them. So the closest relatives of whales in the modern world can be considered not fish, but rather hippos.
The most similar to modern whales in the ancient world are mammals from the Protocetid family, which led an amphibiotic lifestyle, but in structure they were already more similar to modern whales. The nasal openings of these animals were shifted upward, and these animals already had an almost fish tail.
The next stage in the evolution of whales was the basilosaurus - these creatures lived about 38 million years ago. They were the size of modern whales, they had a fatty frontal protrusion, which was responsible for echolocation. In these animals, limb degradation was noted in connection with their almost complete transition to an aquatic lifestyle. The limbs are still well developed, but they are very small and cannot be used for movement.
The next stage in the evolution of cetaceans was the toothed whales that inhabited the reservoirs of our planet from the Middle Oligocene to the middle of the Miocene. It is about 34-14 million years ago that these creatures actively used echolocation, swam well in water and lost contact with land. The oldest humpback whale species Megaptera miocaena lived on our planet in the Late Miocene.
The remains of these animals are known in the Pleistocene and Late Pliocene. Gorbach was first described by Mathurin Jacques Brisson as “baleine de la Nouvelle Angleterre” which means “Whale of New England” in 1756 in his work “The Kingdom of the Animals”. Later Georg Barowski renamed the animal translating its name into Latin Baleana novaeangliae.
French ichthyologist Bernard Germain Hélain de la Ville, Count Laseped changed the classification and name of this species of whales. He also described one of the oldest fossil whale species, Megaptera miocaena, who lived in the Late Miocene.
Appearance and features
Photo: What does a humpback whale look like?
Long-armed minke whale is one of the largest creatures on our planet. The average adult weight is about 30 tons. The body length is about 15 meters in females and 12.5-13 in males. However, especially large individuals are found whose length reaches 19 meters and a mass of up to 50 tons. Sexual defromism in favor of females. Outwardly, females from males differ only in the size and structure of the dropped zone. The body of the whale is dense and shortened. The front of the body is widened, the back is thinner and slightly compressed on the sides.
A large head ends with a rounded snout. The lower jaw is well developed, strong and, as it were, advanced slightly forward. The skull is wide-cheeked. The eyes are small. The nostrils of this species are located at the top of the head and form the spira. About 4 rows of cutaneous growths similar to warts pass on the head from the breathing to the snout.
In the middle row there are 6-8 growths, on the sides from 6 to 15. In front of the lower jaw there is a rather large growth in diameter up to 32 centimeters. All growths are altered hair follicles, from each of the growths it grows by a hair. The size and location of the growths, as well as the color of whales, are individual. The whale has a large saggy belly.
On the abdomen there are longitudinal throat folds that extend from the chin to the navel. During the meal, these folds expand significantly thanks to them, the whale can swallow a large amount of water. There are about 20 folds in total, white folds.
Interesting fact: The humpback whale has a very dense layer of subcutaneous fat, which allows the animal to remain without food for a long time and live in cold waters.
The fins on the chest are particularly long; their length is 30% of the length of the body of the whale. Thanks to such long fins, the whale can swim well and bounce high above the water. The fin located on the small back is only about 32 cm. The posterior edge of the fin is often curved in the form of a sickle. The front edge of the fin is gentle.
On the tail there is a large and massive fin with a serrated edge. Humpback whales can have a variety of colors. The back and sides of the whale are usually black or dark gray. There are white furrows on the chest and sides. The fins located on the chest above are dark or spotty, from below often light or white. The tail is dark above, from below it can be either light or spotted.
There are 7 vertebrae on the neck. Internal organs protect 14 thoracic vertebrae, 10 lumbar and 21 caudal vertebrae. A humpback whale produces a large v-shaped fountain. The height of the fountain can reach three meters.
Where does the humpback whale live?
Photo: Humpback Whale in the Dominican Republic
Humpback whales are real travelers. They live throughout the oceans and in the surrounding seas. Constantly migrate, and stay mostly in krill habitats. And also seasonal migrations are noted. These marine animals cannot be found only in the polar waters.
In the oceans, experts distinguish 3 large populations and about 10 individual herds of whales that constantly migrate. The western population migrates from Iceland and Labrador to the waters of New England and the Antian Islands.
The eastern population inhabits the Barents Sea, the waters of Norway, and western Africa. Western and eastern herds during migrations may overlap. They can winter in a single herd near the Antilles. Scattered herds also live in the north of the Pacific Ocean, moving from Chukotka to the shores of California, the coast of Mexico, Hawaii and Japan. As many as 5 herds chose the cold Arctic waters of the Southern Hemisphere as their home.
The location of these herds is as follows:
- the first herd is located off the coast of South America from the west;
- the second herd inhabits the waters off the coast of South America on the east side;
- the third is located in the waters of East Africa and near the island of Madagascar;
- the fourth inhabits waters in Western Australia;
- another herd lives off the coast of East Australia.
On the territory of our country, whales of this species live in the Japan, Chukchi, Berengovoy, and Barents Sea. True, in recent years, the population of whales of this species has declined significantly, in the habitats of these animals is becoming less and less. Only a few humpback whales are left in the Barents Sea.
Interesting fact: To get rid of parasites, humpback whales often go to the mouths of freshwater rivers, where they are freed from parasites that live on the body of a whale. Parasites cannot live in fresh water and die.
Now you know where the humpback whale is found. Let’s see what this mammal eats.
What does a humpback whale eat?
Photo: Great Humpback Whale
Humpback whales are predatory animals and they feed mainly on small crustaceans, krill and fish.
The usual diet of these creatures includes:
- small crustaceans;
- shrimp and plankton;
- pink salmon and other fish species;
Humpbacks feed through filtration. These animals have huge plates of whalebone, somewhat similar to a sieve that grow from the upper jaw. These plates collect plankton, algae and small fish. The predator simply opens its huge mouth and sucks a large amount of water along with the plankton and living creatures that are in it.
After the whale closes its mouth, the water is filtered between the whalebone plates. Previously stretched neck folds are compressed, the whale's tongue rises. The food remains on the bristles which are located on the inner edge of the whalebone, and are later swallowed. Water comes out.
Interesting fact: A whale is a very large creature, and it needs a lot of food. In the stomach of the whale can be up to 850 kg of fish.
Whales get their food in various ways. Sometimes whales hunt together for whole schools of fish. Several whales simultaneously swimming in a circle and whipping their fins with water create a foam ring from which the fish cannot swim out and stray into one dense school.
At the same time, whales in turn sharply emerge into the center of the fish school and try to capture as much prey as possible. When hunting for near-bottom fish and crustaceans, humpbacks, exhaling water, create a foam cloud in the water from the breath, which knocks the fish down. After which the whale dives sharply to the bottom, swallowing food.
Sometimes lone whales stun the fish with sharp tail strikes on the surface of the water, while the whale swims in a circle. A stunned fish does not understand where it needs to swim and also go astray, after which the whale abruptly captures prey.
Features of character and lifestyle
Photo: Humpback Whale at Sea
The life of humpbacks is very dependent on their seasonal migrations. During the mating season and in the usual habitat, whales try to stay in the coastal zone at a shallow depth. They live more often in krill habitats. In the same place, animals are fed, forming a strong layer of subcutaneous fat. During wintering, whales eat very little and lose up to 30% of their weight.
For wintering, whales migrate to places with warmer climates. Whales often winter near the shores of Mexico, Japan and Colombia. During the migration, whales swim thousands of kilometers, while the whale trajectory runs in a straight line. Whales move slowly, during migration, the speed of the humpback is about 10-15 km / h.
Humpback whales are considered the most fun and playful. Humpbacks often create entire performances by jumping out of the water for several meters, and cheerfully flopping back onto the water. In this case, the humpbacks are surrounded by clouds of spray. This behavior in animals is not really due to its playful nature. Whales do not have fun in this way, but simply throw off the parasites that live on their body. Whales cannot be under water all the time as they breathe air.
In the summer, whales are submerged for 5-8 minutes. In winter, 10-15 in rare cases can be under water for up to half an hour. Humpbacks constantly release fountains of filtered water on the surface at intervals of 5-17 seconds. V-shaped fountains up to 5 meters high. Humpback whales have a calm outgoing character. The social structure of whales is undeveloped, whales are mainly kept in small herds or singly. Families in whales are not formed, only the female takes care of the offspring. The average life expectancy of humpback whales is 40-50 years.
Social structure and reproduction
Photo: Humpback Whale from the Red Book
Humpback whales mating season falls in the winter. During the entire mating season, you can hear the loud singing of males. So they attract females, and mark the boundaries of their possessions for other males. Sometimes, singing can be a common means of communication.
During the breeding season, whales are wintering in warm waters, while females ready for mating settle in calm waters, protected from winds in shallow water. The males stay close. Having chosen a female, the male pursues her, not letting other males approach her. Often clashes occur between males who fight for the female. The male does not stay long with the female and after mating, almost immediately retires back to other males.
At the end of the breeding season, whales return to the polar feeding areas. There, whales are intensively fed for 3 months. After feeding, whales return to warm waters. It is there that after almost a year of gestation, one cub is born in females. A newborn whale weighs from 700 kg to 1.5 tons. Baby growth at birth is about 5 meters. The female feeds the cub with milk during the first year.
Interesting fact: Females of a whale are the only mammals that are able to carry and feed the cub with milk at a time when she herself has nothing to eat. During wintering in the tropics, the whales practically do not eat, and the females feed the cubs with milk, which is produced from fat stores.
The baby grows very quickly, and by the end of feeding its growth is about 9 meters in length. During this time, the female gives up almost all reserves and loses much weight. During migration, the baby swims next to his mother. Whales reach puberty by 6 years. The female gives birth to 1 cub 1 time in several years. Sometimes females can become pregnant during the lactation period, but this is only under favorable conditions.
Natural Enemies of Humpback Whales
Photo: Humpback Whale
Humpback whales, due to their enormous size, have virtually no enemies in the wild. Of the natural enemies of whales, only a killer whale, which can attack cubs of whales, can be noted. However, these giant creatures are very poisoned by small parasites.
The most common parasites that live on whales include:
- whale lice;
- mustachioed crustaceans;
- nematodes, scrapers, etc.
But the main enemy of these huge creatures was and remains man. Whales have long been the subject of whaling, and in the 20th century about 90% of these animals were exterminated for hunting, and a ban was introduced on whales. But still, several whales are killed every year. Whale meat is much appreciated, and a whalebone, from which many items are made, is also highly valued.
With the introduction of the ban on hunting, the whale population began to recover gradually. Today, the main concerns are caused by pollution of the water bodies in which the whales live. Due to climate change and water pollution, the ingress of harmful chemicals into the water, fish and small crustaceans, which are the feed of whales, die. Besides. non-degradable debris gets stuck in the digestive tract of whales, which makes the animal die.
Population and species status
Photo: What does a humpback whale look like?
Due to the fact that for a long time people were ruthlessly hunting humpback whales, the population of these amazing creatures is in danger of extinction. The statistics are sad: from 150-120 thousand individuals on our planet, only 30 to 60 thousand individuals remain. At the same time, the North Atlantic population of humpback whales decreased from 15 thousand individuals to 700 animals.
The North Pacific whale population initially numbered about 15 thousand individuals, but by 1976 the population had declined to 1,500 animals, although by 1997 the population had increased again to 6,000 animals. In the Southern Hemisphere in 1965, there were 100 thousand individuals, at the moment there are 20 thousand animals. In the North Indian Ocean in the 80's. there were only 500 individuals.
After the ban on fishing was introduced, the humpback population began to recover gradually. In 1990, this species had the Endangered status in the Red Book - the species on the verge of extinction was changed to Vulnerable (the species whose population is in a vulnerable state).
The main danger to whales at the moment is the poor environmental situation, water pollution and climate change. Also, humpback whales often fall into fishing nets, from which they cannot get out, and collide with vessels. In places of breeding whales there are many factors that prevent these animals from breeding quietly, a large number of fishing vessels, and an abundance of boats and boats.
Humpback Whale Guard
Photo: Humpback Whale from the Red Book
The main measure for the protection of humpback whales which has led to population growth is the ban on whaling in all countries of the world. At the moment, only a few individuals are allowed to be harvested per year.
In a number of water areas, at the legislative level, they have limited the speed with which vessels can navigate, changed the routes of some vessels so that whale routes do not intersect with vessels during migration, and whales do not crash into them. Special squads are organized to help whales get out of the net.
In our country, the humpback whale is listed in the Red Book. If the whale population is damaged, the catch of these animals requires the collection of 210 thousand rubles in favor of the state.
Reserves are also established in the region of the Sea of Okhotsk and the Commander Islands. Conservation of the humpback whale population is of great importance for the conservation of the biological diversity of the fauna.
Whales play a very important role in the functioning of various animal communities and the circulation of organic substances in nature. In addition, whales regulate the populations of many species of fish and other aquatic creatures, without allowing them to multiply excessively. The rescue of humpback whales is in our hands, people should be more careful with the environment, build garbage processing plants, and monitor the cleanliness of water bodies.
Humpback whale - This is truly an amazing creature. Today, researchers are trying to learn as much as possible about how these creatures live. After all, they had little attention to this issue before. To study their incredible signal system, incomprehensible to man. Who knows, maybe in the near future we will find out what the humpback whale sings about?