Humpback flukes

Title Info
Common name Humpback whale
Scientific name Megaptera novaeangliae
Source Dan L. Perlman
Conservation Endangered species
Date August 07, 2006
Location Stellwagen Bank,off Cape Cod,Massachusetts,USA,North America
Humpback whale tail flukes identify individuals
Related materials: Humpback whale

Humpback whale tail flukes, off of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Each humpback has a unique set of markings on the underside of its tail flukes, which has enabled researchers to identify individuals for long-term studies. The whale in this image is an adult female called "Reflection."

Humpback whales are fascinating for many aspects of their biology. A few especially interesting points: Humpbacks are among the most widespread mammals on earth, summering in productive but colder regions such as off of Cape Cod, Antarctica, and the Arctic ice cap and wintering in warm waters in areas such as Hawaii, the Caribbean, and off Madagascar. The females feed extensively in the cold, rich waters of their summering grounds, then migrate a thousand or more miles to their warmer calving grounds--where there is no food for them. The first several months of a baby humpback's life are spent in warm waters, where it is receiving very rich milk from its mother, who is essentially on a 6-month starvation diet until she and her calf return to their colder feeding grounds. The humpback's huge pectoral fins (the basis for its scientific name of Megaptera) allow it to be very maneuverable underwater, while the flukes (the large tail fin) powers its breaching. In addition, each whale has a distinct pattern of black and white markings under its fluke, allowing scientists to identify individuals. Humpbacks are listed by the US government as an endangered species.