Humpback whales are popular for their so called “songs”, their excellent swimming skills, and their breaching behavior! But along with their popularity come a lot of myths about these sea creatures that are also one of the longest living mammals in sea. Here are some more interesting facts that defy the myths surrounding these wonderful creatures.
The amazing swimming skills of humpback whales can be attributed to their massive tail fins, also known as flukes, and their extremely long flippers that measure almost a quarter of their total body length. These powerful swimmers have a speed of about 3-9 mph; but, are capable of increasing it to 15-16 mph in times of danger and reducing it to 1.2-3.5 mph when feeding.
Although defined as carnivorous, these massive mammals don’t hunt large fish. Their diet is limited to schools of smaller fishes, including krill and other crustaceans such as shrimps. Their diet is huge though; they need almost one and a half ton of food every day!
The acrobatic skills of humpback whales are quite popular among sea-farers. Flipping and slapping into water, they even twirl around while performing their many feats. Although scientists are not sure why they breach; one common explanation for this behavior is that it is a means to kill the parasites that thrive on their skin. Others who are skeptical about this explanation are still studying whether it has any other significance in terms of social behavior.
Humpback whales are an endangered species. Thanks to their large size and slow movement, they are easy targets for whalers. However, international laws and bans on commercialization of the whale trade have made a huge difference to their dwindling population.
These creatures are still a mysterious lot to scientists. There are several behavioral activities that remain unexplained. Some of these include ‘Spyhopping’, where the whale surfaces to have a look around for about 30 seconds, and ‘lobtailing’, where it splashes its tail on the ocean surface making loud sounds. Scientists are continuing to study these unexplained behavior to understand the significance!
The popular “singing” of the humpback whales is actually a series of cries, howls, and moans that are sequenced to create complex series of sounds. This singing can continue from anywhere between 20 twenty minutes to a few hours. This is another of the unexplained activities of these whales for which scientists are still seeking an answer. While some consider it a social response that is used to communicate with other whales, some others consider it as part of their mating activity!
Humpback whales are typical mammals in every sense. The female whale gives birth to a calf after a gestation period that extends 12 months. The young calf is nursed for almost a year before they are weaned!
These whales get their name from the “hump” or “arch” it forms with its back while diving out of water.
Although humpback whales are great singers, they do not possess vocal chords! While scientists are still trying to explain this, it is believed that they make these sounds by circulating air through their respiratory system. But how it is done is still a mystery; because their mouths don’t move and no air escapes!
One thing that humpback whales seem to share with humans is their preference for Hawaii! This is one place in the US where they love to mate, give birth, and nurse their calves. Breaching is a common sight in Hawaiian waters. This attraction has been attributed to the warm waters, greater visibility under water, and absence of natural predators.