The Falkland Islands and South Atlantic
HUMPBACK WHALE Megaptera novaeangliae

HUMPBACK WHALE Megaptera novaeangliae



  • baby-humpback-Yann-Hubert
  • hump-and-calf-Yann-Hubert


Megaptera 'big wing'

Humpbacks belong to the family Balaenopteridae or 'Rorqual' (old Norse meaning 'grooved whale') whales, characterised by their sleek body form and pleated throat grooves that expand when the whales feed allowing them to take massive gulps of food and water. They are baleen whales and Humpback, Blue, Sei, Bryde's, and Minke whales are included in this group. They are the largest animals ever to inhabit the world.
Body length: 16-19m (52-62ft) males are slightly shorter than females. They may weigh in excess of 48,000kg (53 tons).
Humpbacks are familiar great whales, generally black/ grey body above, and they are black, white or mottled underneath. They have unique wart-like protuberances called tubercles on the head, lower jaw and flipper edges. They are easily identified by their really long, serrated flippers which are mostly white on Atlantic humpbacks and measure a third of their body length.  Flippers are up to 5m long. The dorsal fin is more than two thirds down the back. The tail is also serrated with variable patterns on the underside.  The pattern on humpback flukes and undersides is unique to individuals. They are well known for their magnificent acrobatic displays and singing. Humpbacks raise their flukes and arch their backs when diving making them appear humped. They have a low, rounded blow.
Food is krill and small schooling fish.
Males sing long complex songs at breeding time.  Calves are born in tropical waters in the winter time; cows give birth every 3-5 years after a gestation of 11-12 months.
Widely distributed in all major oceans mostly in coastal and continental shelf waters, humpbacks follow definite migration paths from summer feeding grounds at the edge of Antarctica to warmer waters in winter in tropical and sub-tropical latitudes.  

Humpbacks are recorded infrequently in Falkland Islands waters but were probably more common pre-whaling. Their IUCN Conservation status is 'vulnerable'.

In the Falklands the Humpback whale is classed as a 'regular' cetacean.The Falkland Islands Marine Mammals Ordinance 1992 protects all marine mammals in all waters from the coast to the edge of the economic exclusion zone.


 Sources include: Sea Mammals of the World-Randall R. Reeves, Brent S. Steware, Phillip J Clapham, James A Powell,Falkland Islands State of the Environment Report 2008 Otley H, Munro G, Clausen A, Ingham B. Wikipedia The World's Whales-Minasian, Balcomb lll, Foster, A Complete Guide to Antarctic Wildlife- Hadoram Shirihai
Photographic credits: Yann Hubert/, Thomas Kotouc/
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