Megaptera novaeangliae   (Borowski,  1781) (Whale)
Organism information awaits expert curation
Class: Mammalia

Size: Male: 15 m; Females: 16 m.

Weight: 25-65 tons

Color: Humpback Whales are black or grey in color, with a white region on the throat and belly. The flippers are white underneath, sometimes above as well. There are 270-400 baleen plates on each side, the largest being up to 70 cm long and 30 cm wide. They are black with black or olive-black bristles.

The body of a Humpback Whale is more robust than those of the other rorquals, but the head is slender, and is described as alligator-like in profile. The top of the head is flattened and covered by a number of fleshy knobs. There is a round protuberance at the tip of the lower jaw. When seen from above, the head is broad and rounded. Unlike the other rorquals, the ridge along the midline on top of the head is indistinct. The number of throat grooves is 14-35, extending to the navel. The dorsal fin is located less than one-third of the body length from the tail fluke notch. It may be small and triangular, or larger and sickle-shaped. It frequently includes a step or hump, giving the species its common name. A Humpback Whale’s flippers are very long, measuring about one third of the total body length. They are scalloped with knobs or bumps. The tail flukes are broad and butterfly-shaped, and have some white coloration below. Usually seen in family groups of 3 or 4, Humpback Whales produce a single bushy spout up to 3 m high. Some Humpback Whales have the remnants of hind limbs. Sensory knobs on head.Lifts tail when diving. Variably curved dorsal fin midback on a hump. "Knuckles" or bumps along tail stock of thin whales. Flippers may reach length of 4.5 m (15'). Individuals recognized by underside of flukes and body scars/markings.
It feeds on herring (Clupea harengus), sand lance (Ammodytes sp.) and other small fish, invertebrates (euphausiids).

Some Humpback Whales leap out of water and lobtail prior to feeding. Humpback Whale appears to enjoy breaching, and this type of behavior attracts tourists. A breaching Humpback Whale launches itself gracefully into the air and executes a half-twist so that it lands on its back. Seagulls steal fish from Humpback Whales’ open mouth, but careless birds may be swallowed accidentally. The singing of Humpback Whales at their breeding grounds is now famous. Their songs are audible from far away. These whales do not sing at their feeding grounds, though they do communicate with each other.

Similar species: May be confused with Blue and Sperm Whale from a distance.
Interestingly, the distinctive marks on the undersides of the flukes help in individualizing the species. Such labeling is useful to understand movements and migration.

Synonym (s)
Balaena allamack Gray, 1846
Balaena atlanticus Hurdis, 1897
Balaena boops Fabricius, 1780
Balaena gibbosa Gray, 1843
Balaena lalandii Fischer, 1829
Balaena longimana Rudolphi, 1832
Balaena nodosa Bonnaterre, 1789
Balaena novaeangliae Borowski, 1781
Balaena sulcata antarctica Schlegel, 1841
Balaenoptera antarctica Temminck, 1841
Balaenoptera astrolabe Pucheran, 1843
Balaenoptera australis Lesson, 1828
Balaenoptera capensis A. Smith, 1834
Balaenoptera leucopteron Lesson, 1842
Balaenoptera syncondylus A. Mueller, 1863
Kyphobalaena keporkak (Van Beneden, 1868)
Megaptera americana Gray, 1846
Megaptera antarctica Gray, 1846
Megaptera australis Iredale & Troughton, 1934
Megaptera bellicosa Cope, 1871
Megaptera boops Van Beneden & Gervais, 1880
Megaptera brasiliensis True, 1904
Megaptera braziliensis Cope, 1867
Megaptera burmeisteri Burmeister, 1866
Megaptera gigas Cope, 1865
Megaptera indica Gervais, 1883
Megaptera kusira Trouessart, 1904
Megaptera kuzira Gray, 1850
Megaptera lalandii Gray, 1864
Megaptera longimana Gray, 1846
Megaptera longimana morei Gray, 1866
Megaptera longipinna Gray, 1846
Megaptera nodosa Bonnaterre, 1789
Megaptera nodosa Lahille, 1905
Megaptera nodosa bellicosa Elliot, 1904
Megaptera nodosa lalandii Tomilin, 1946
Megaptera nodosa nodosa Tomilin, 1946
Megaptera nodosa novaezealandiae Ivashin, 1958
Megaptera novaezelandiae Gray, 1864
Megaptera osphya Mead & Brownell, 2005
Megaptera osphyia Cope, 1865
Megaptera poescop Gray, 1846
Megaptera versabilis Cope, 1869
Poescopia lalandii Gray, 1866
Rorqualus antarcticus F. Cuvier, 1836
Rorqualus australis Hamilton, 1837

Common Name (s)
• Hunchback
• Bunch Whale (English)
• Humpback Whale (English)
• Hunch (English)
• Hump (English)
• Hunchback whale (English)
• Humpbacked Whale (English)
Economic Importance and Threats
Threats:  Anthropogenic
(Commercial whaling)

Habitat:  Open Sea, Coastal
IUCN Status:  Least Concern


• Kerala, Kollam INDIA
• Tamil Nadu INDIA
• Tamil Nadu, Kodikkarai INDIA
• Kerala INDIA
• Tamil Nadu, Gulf of Mannar INDIA
• INDIA (Record: 1800-2000)
• Gujarat, Gulf of Kachchh (Lat: 22.6) (Long: 69.5) INDIA

Literature Source(s)
  • Sathasivam K (2004) Marine mammals of India Universities Press(India) private limited, Hyderabad, India 180 pp Available at - NIO, Goa
  • Society for the Management of European Biodiversity Data (2009) World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) Available at -
  • (2003) IUCN Red list of threatened species Available at -
  • Borkar, M (2005) Marine mammals, turtles and crocodiles: A field manual NIO, Goa 63 pp Available at - NIO
  • Marine Biological Station, Chennai, Tamil Nadu (2003) Checklist of marine fauna of Tamil Nadu Department of Environment, Government of Tamil Nadu Available at -
  • Dr. Ramesh, R; Dr. Nammalwar, P and Dr. Gowri, VS (2008) Database on coastal information of Tamil Nadu Report Submitted to Environmental Information System (ENVIS) Centre, Department of Environment, Government of Tamil Nadu Institute for Ocean Management, Anna University, Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Available at -
  • Kumaran, PL (2002) Marine mammal research in India: A review and critique of the methods Current Science Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore 83(10) 1210-1220 Available at -
  • Pillai, PKM and Augustine, SK (2000) A code list of common marine living resources of the Indian seas CMFRI Special Publication No.12 CMFRI 1-115 Available at -
  • Padmanaban P and Dinesh K.P (2011) A checklist of Marine Mammals of India Marine Biology Reginal centre, Zoological Survey of India 4pp Available at -
  • Singh H.S (2003) Sea mammals in marine protected area in the Gulf of Kachchh, Gujarat State, India Indian Journal of Marine Science 258-262pp Available at -
  • Jefferson, TA; Leatherwood, S and Webber, MA (2006) Marine mammals of the world World biodiversity database Available at -

Page last updated on:2012-11-06

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