Humpback feeding

Title Info
Common name Humpback whale
Scientific name Megaptera novaeangliae
Source Dan L. Perlman
Ecological interactions Predation
Selection and adaptations Extreme environments
Conservation Endangered species
Date August 07, 2006
Location Stellwagen Bank,off Cape Cod,Massachusetts,USA,North America
Humpback whale feeding, Massachusetts
Related materials: Humpback whale

Humpback whale feeding, off of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Like all baleen whales, humpbacks are filter feeders. The whale swims through a school of small fish or other small prey such as krill, opening its mouth widely. The grooves under the chin allow the mouth cavity to expand greatly, as the whale takes in vast quantities of water and prey. Once the whale closes its mouth, it uses its tongue and throat muscles to expel water through the baleen plates, as can be seen in this image. The prey are strained out and swallowed. Researchers in Alaska estimated that a humpback will take in approximately 750 lbs (350 kg) of prey per day.

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.