humpback whale


humpback whale
a large whalebone whale of the genus Megaptera having long narrow flippers, and noted for its habit of arching deeply as it dives: once abundant in coastal waters, it is now rare but its numbers are increasing.
[1715-25]

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Long-finned baleen whale (Megaptera novaeangliae).

They live along all major ocean coasts, sometimes swimming close inshore or even into harbours and up rivers. Humpbacks grow to 40–52 ft (12–16 m) long. They are black above, with some white below, and have large knobs on the head and jaws. The humpback migrates between polar waters in summer and tropical or subtropical breeding grounds in winter. It feeds on shrimplike crustaceans, small fish, and plankton. It is probably the most vocal of all whales (with "songs" of 5–35 minutes) and one of the most acrobatic (capable of turning a somersault). Much reduced in number by overhunting, humpbacks have been protected worldwide since the 1960s, and some populations seem to be increasing.

Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) breaching.

Al Giddings
Images Unlimited

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mammal
 a baleen whale known for its elaborate courtship songs and displays. Humpbacks usually range from 12 to 16 metres (39 to 52 feet) in length and weigh approximately 36 metric tons (40 short [U.S.] tons). The body is black on the upper surface, with a variable amount of white below, and it has about 30 broad ventral grooves on the throat and chest. This cetacean is distinguished from other baleen whales by its long, narrow flippers, which are about a third as long as the body and scalloped on the forward edge. Humpbacks also have large knobs on the head, jaws, and body, each knob being associated with one or two hairs. The dorsal fin is small and set far back on the body.

  Humpback whales live along the coasts of all oceans, occasionally swimming close to shore, even into harbours and rivers. They undertake long migrations between polar feeding grounds in summer and tropical or subtropical breeding grounds in winter. Diet consists of shrimplike crustaceans called krill, small fish, and plankton, which the humpback whale strains out of the water with its baleen. Humpbacks use a unique method of feeding called bubblenetting, in which bubbles are exhaled as the whale swims in a spiral below a patch of water dense with food. The curtain of bubbles confines the prey to a small area in the middle of which one or more whales surface.

 The most vocal (vocalization) of all whales, humpbacks make a great variety of sounds, from moans and cries to groans and snores. The whales string these together to form “songs” lasting 5–35 minutes. The songs vary among groups of whales in different regions and undergo gradual but distinctive changes from year to year.

      The humpback is also one of the most acrobatic cetaceans. It frequently breaches by leaping belly-up completely clear of the water, then arching backward and returning to the surface with a loud slapping sound. When beginning a deep dive, the animal hunches its back and rolls steeply forward, bringing its tail out of the water and perpendicular to the ocean surface.

      The humpback whale was at one time commercially valuable and was greatly reduced in numbers by overhunting in the early and mid-20th century. It has been protected worldwide from commercial whaling since the mid-1960s, and many populations have increased. These population increases have prompted the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to change the status of the humpback whale from endangered to vulnerable.

      Although the humpback is the only species in the genus Megaptera, it is related to other rorquals (rorqual) of the family Balaenopteridae, including the blue whale, fin whale, and sei whale. The latter portion of the humpback's species name is a Latin reference to the New England colonies, where it was first scientifically described.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Humpback whale — Hump back whale, n. the {humpback[3]}. [PJC] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • humpback whale — also humpback n a large ↑whale …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • humpback whale — noun count a dark gray or black WHALE with a large round back …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • Humpback whale — Humpback whale[1] …   Wikipedia

  • Humpback Whale — Taxobox name = Humpback whale MSW3 Cetacea|id=14300027] status = LC status system = iucn3.1 status ref =IUCN2008|assessors=Reilly, S.B., Bannister, J.L., Best, P.B., Brown, M., Brownell Jr., R.L., Butterworth, D.S., Clapham, P.J., Cooke, J.,… …   Wikipedia

  • humpback whale — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms humpback whale : singular humpback whale plural humpback whales a dark grey or black whale with a large round back …   English dictionary

  • humpback whale — noun large whalebone whale with long flippers noted for arching or humping its back as it dives • Syn: ↑humpback, ↑Megaptera novaeangliae • Hypernyms: ↑baleen whale, ↑whalebone whale • Member Holonyms: ↑Megaptera, ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • humpback whale — hump′back whale′ n. zool. mam a large whalebone whale, Megaptera novaeangliae, having long, narrow flippers • Etymology: 1715–25 …   From formal English to slang

  • humpback whale — noun Date: 1725 a large baleen whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) that is black above and white below and has very long flippers, and fleshy tubercles along the snout …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • humpback whale — noun A baleen whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) …   Wiktionary