The humpback whale is one of the world’s most well-known cetaceans, it’s popularity is indisputable. Let’s take a closer look at this amazing animal!
Getting to know the humpback whale
First of all, why the name? It comes from the distinctive hump shape of its back, particularly noticeable when the whale dives. Not only do these whales have humps, but they also have bumps! The many bumps that cover the whale’s head are giant hair follicles called tubercles. The tubercle contains nerves and short hair sprouts from them. Some researchers think the tubercles create lift, reducing drag while the whale swims. It is also thought that the tubercles help the whale sense the presence of food sources like schools of small fish such as anchovies, and tiny crustaceans called krill, which produce vibrations in the water. Instead of teeth, Humpback whales have plates of baleen made of keratin, the same substance that constitutes human hair and fingernails! Humpbacks use their baleen like a sieve to filter feed, sifting through huge amounts of seawater to extract their tiny prey. The humpbacks use a clever trick when feeding, they dive below a school of fish or krill and begin to blow bubbles to form a circular bubble net. The nets herd their prey into a small area, capturing them for the whales to swim through, mouths open wide!
The most popular whale
Humpbacks are famed for their athletic antics at the surface, inspiring the nickname ‘acrobat of the ocean’. There are a variety of manoeuvres the whale performs, each with a specific purpose, although sometimes it’s thought they’re just showing off! To experience these amazing behaviours, make sure to join a Sydney whale-watching tour! Here are some of the moves they might do!
- Tail Slap – diving head down so the tail sticks up out of the water, then slapping the surface, sometimes repeatedly. This may be a form of communication such as a warning, or a sexual display.
- Spy Hop – raising the head out of the water, possibly just to have a good look at you!
- Pectoral Fin Slapping – slapping the long pectoral fins against the surface, perhaps another way of communicating.
- Breach – pumping its powerful tail, the whale propels itself entirely out of the water in a breathtaking leap!
Humpback whales are a spectacular sight to behold, come see for yourself!