Massive and majestic, yet playful and affectionate, Humpback whales feature in this week’s Wildlife Wednesday!
Humpback whales (and in fact all cetaceans) are believed to have evolved from hoofed land animals (including cows, camels and sheep) some 45 million years ago. Proof of this evolution lies in the whales’ physiological systems (circulatory, digestive, respiratory, and nervous systems), which bear many similarities to their terrestrial ancestors. In fact, humpback whales still possess multi-chambered stomachs even though there is no obvious reason for such a system since they do not chew cud!
While at times there have been sightings of up to 15 Humpbacks feeding together, these interactions are short lived, lasting only a few days at most. Generally, humpback whales do not form any long-term social bonds, with the exception of mother-offspring pairs who typically spend a full year together. While feeding, 1 to several whales may partake in bubble netting, where they create circular walls of bubbles that concentrate their prey before lunging through it for a mouthful.
During mating season, humpback whales found feeding on the BC coast migrate to their breeding “grounds” in Hawaii and Mexico. Here, the males partake in the annual social convention of singing. The males’ songs are often long and complex, taking 10 to 20 minutes to recite. Interestingly enough, members of the same region sing the same song and these songs evolve from year to year. Scientists believe that these songs are used either to attract females or to communicate between the males.
To hear an example of one of their beautiful songs check out http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/vents/acoustics/whales/sounds/whalewav/akhumphi1x.wav or read more about them at http://marinebio.org/species.asp?id=39. For a chance to see one of these guys breach, thrusting 2/3 of their 60 000 lb bodies out of the water for no obvious reason except fun, try a tour with Spirit of the West Adventures!