Animal picture of the day: humpback whale breaching
The humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is a conservation success story. Decimated by centuries of whaling, most populations have risen since a moratorium was placed on commercial whaling in the 1966. Today, over 60,000 humpback whales migrate through the world's oceans, though this is still considerably less than the historic population.
Humpback whales, one of the most iconic cetaceans, grow over 50 feet long (16 meters), with females slightly larger than males. These behemoths mate and reproduce in warm tropical waters then migrate to feeding grounds in the more productive northern latitudes.
Male humpback whale are known for their long complex songs. Males can sing continuously for 24 hours. Researchers do not yet know why the whales sing, though they have offered a number of competing hypothesis, such as courtship or general communication with other whales.
Photo shows Humpback whale breaching in Alaska. Photo by Rhett Butler.
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