Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) are mammals and belong to the family of the Great Whales. The Latin genus "megaptera" translates literally as "big winged" and refers to the Humpbacks' very elongate pectoral fins which can be up to one third of the body length. The common name "Humpback" comes from the fact that they arch their back steeply as they dive and was given to them by the early whalers who decimated the population on a global scale. Humpback Whales have been protected worldwide from commercial whaling since 1966 and global conservation efforts have contributed to an annual Caribbean population growth rate of around 3%.
Humpbacks are well known for their complex songs, awe inspiring aerial displays and extensive repertoire of interesting surface behaviour. Adults weigh 25-40 tons and measure up to 50 feet in length, while new-born calves can already boast an impressive one ton at a length of 10-15 feet. The gestation period is 11 months and females will usually return to the place of their own birth for having their offspring (maternal fidelity). In the absence of their main nutrition krill, adults will generally not feed in the tropics, but live of the large amount of fat they have accumulated over the summer in the North Atlantic. A calf, however, can consume up to 50 gallons of milk per day, causing significant weight loss in its mother.
Just like our fingerprints, the patterns on the underside of the tail flukes are unique to each whale and can be used to identify individual animals. Morever, whales have their own personalities and can show different moods and behaviours every day, which means whale watching is full of surprises.
Of course there are many more interesting facts surrounding these fascinating creatures and we'd be happy to share them with you on one of our whale watching trips.