Project Description

The humpback whale became the iconic whale that turned the tide of public opinion against commercial whaling after Roger Payne released a recoding of their evocative songs in 1972. “The Songs of the Humpback Whale” became the first ‘Gold Album’ (a million sales) produced by an animal.

The songs are long, complex, and include varied sections – stanzas and codas, lasting 10 – 20 minutes and often repeated for hours on end and are sung by the males. All males in a given regional group will sing the same song throughout the breeding season. The songs will change each year, so a group and a year can be identified by the song. Recently there has been evidence that song elements migrate between some groups over time.

General Information

Latin Name:
Megaptera novaeangliae
AKA:
Length:
12–16 metres (39–52 ft)
Weight:
36,000 kilograms (79,000 lb)
Lifetime:
Physical Traits:
stocky, humpback, black dorsal coloring, head and jar are covered with tubercles (hair follicles), black and white tail fin, pectoral fin has unique patterns
Behavior:
vocal, acrobatic – breaching and slapping the water, migratory, social, Humpbacks feed only in summer, in polar waters, and migrate to tropical or sub-tropical waters to breed and give birth in the winter, alone or in small transient groups
Habitat:
ocean, from polar to tropical waters
Locations:
North Pacific, Atlantic, and Southern Ocean humpbacks have distinct populations which complete a migratory round-trip each year. The Indian Ocean population does not migrate, prevented by that ocean’s northern coastline.
Food:
krill, small fish
Predators:
Orcas, some sharks during birthing, Japanese whalers on occasion
Links:
Literature:

Cerchio, S. and Dahlheim, M. 2001. Variation in feeding vocalizations of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) from southeast Alaska. Bioacoustics 11: 277-295.Charif, R.A., Clapham, P.J. and Clark, C.W., 2001.Acoustic detections of singing humpback whales in deep waters off the British Isles. Marine Mammal Science, 17(4): 751-768.

Clark, C.W. and Clapham, P.J. 2004. Acoustic monitoring on a humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) feeding ground shows continual singing into late spring. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B 271: 1051-1057.

Darling, J.D. and Bérubé, M. 2001. Interactions of singing humpback whales with other males. Marine Mammal Science 17(3): 570-584.

Cerchio, S., Jacobsen, J.K. and Norris, T.N. 2001. Temporal and geographical variation in songs of humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae: Synchronous change in Hawaiian and Mexican breeding assemblages. Animal Behavior 62(2): 313-329.

Richardson, W.J., Green, C.R. Jr., Malme, C.I. and Thomson, D.H. 1995. Marine Mammals and Noise. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.