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Humpback Whale  - Megaptera novaeangliae
Photo by Howard Hall

The humpback whale's body is dark gray to black while its belly, flippers, and underside of its flukes are nearly white. It has a small dorsal fin with a broad base, and can grow up to 53 feet long. It migrates annually between polar and tropical waters. Humpback whales can often be seen performing acrobatic displays of breaching, leaping, and fluke slapping. They are also known for their diverse vocalization patterns or "singing" that is thought to allow them to communicate and identify individuals. Humpbacks feed by engulfing their prey along with mouthfuls of water and filter the water out while trapping the prey in their baleen.

Humpback Whale
(Megaptera novaeangliae)

Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic Ocean

Deep to coastal waters

Krill and small fish


The status of this species is representative of the populations within the waters of this Sanctuary only, not global populations.

Quick Fact
Humpback whales often feed by creating a "bubble curtain" by releasing bubbles while swimming in a circular pattern underneath a school of fish. This disorients the fish causing them to cluster close together so the whale can swoop upward and engulf them.

Learn More
- The Marine Mammal Center
- The University of Michigan Museum of Zoology