Friday, January 7, 2011

Humpback whale dives amidst thousands of seabirds

Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)

Humpback whales are well known for their long "pectoral" fins, which can be up to 15 feet (4.6 m) in length. Their scientific name, Megaptera novaeangliae, means "big-winged New Englander" as the New England population was the one best known to Europeans. These long fins give them increased maneuverability; they can be used to slow down or even go backwards.

Similar to all baleen whales, adult females are larger than adult males, reaching lengths of up to 60 feet (18 m). Their body coloration is primarily dark grey, but individuals have a variable amount of white on their pectoral fins and belly. This variation is so distinctive that the pigmentation pattern on the undersides of their "flukes" is used to identify individual whales, similar to a humans fingerprint.

Humpback whales are the favorite of whale watchers, as they frequently perform aerial displays, such as breaching (jumping out of the water), or slap the surface with their pectoral fins, tails, or heads.

A magnificent profusion of life as a humpback whale dives amidst thousands of seabirds. The NOAA Ship OSCAR DYSON is in the distance.

Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)Image ID: anim1019, NOAA's Ark - Animals Collection. Location: Alaska, off Unalaska Island. Photo Date: 2005 September 7. Photographer: Dr. Phillip Clapham, NMFS, AKFSC, NMML. Category: Great Whales, NOAA 200th Photo Contest/

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