Humpback Whale


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Humpback Whale

 

(Megaptera nodosa), a mammal of the family Balaenopteridae. Measuring 11–16 m long, it weighs 25–40 tons, of which 4–6 tons is fat. The humpback whale is characterized by a short, thickset body and long (up to one-third the length of the body) pectoral fins with a knobby forward edge. On the head and lower jaw there are up to 50 rounded bosses measuring up to 9 cm in diameter; the dorsal fin is small and fat. On each side of the mouth there are 270–400 dark plates of whalebone. The abdomen has up to 36 lengthwise grooves or pleats. The body coloration varies: it is black on top and black, mottled, or white below. The humpback whale is almost completely covered with barnacles and whale lice.

The humpback whale is found from the arctic to the antarctic; in the USSR it is distributed in the seas of the Far East. In the southern hemisphere there are six and in the northern hemisphere, four, populations (“herds”) of humpback whales. They winter, mate, and reproduce in warm waters, often close to shore, and put on fat in cold and temperate waters. The gestation period lasts approximately one year. The young are 4–4.5 m long at birth and are nursed by the mother for half a year. Because of decreasing numbers, the commercial use of humpback whales has been prohibited since 1963.

REFERENCES

Tomilin. A. G. Kitoobraznye. Moscow. 1957. (Zveri SSSR i prilezhashchikh stran, vol. 9.)
Tomilin. A. G. Kitoobraznye fauny morei SSSR. Moscow, 1962.

A. G. TOMILIN

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