The Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is a baleen whale. One of the larger rorqual species, adults range in length from 12–16 metres (40–50 ft) and weigh approximately 36,000 kilograms (79,000 lb). The Humpback has a distinctive body shape, with unusually long pectoral fins and a knobbly head. It is an acrobatic animal, often breaching and slapping the water. Males produce a complex whale song, which lasts for 10 to 20 minutes and is repeated for hours at a time. The purpose of the song is not yet clear, although it appears to have a role in mating.
Found in oceans and seas around the world, Humpback Whales typically migrate up to 25,000 kilometres each year. Humpbacks feed only in summer, in polar waters, and migrate to tropical or sub-tropical waters to breed and give birth in the winter. During the winter, Humpbacks fast and live off their fat reserves. The species' diet consists mostly of krill and small fish. Humpbacks have a diverse repertoire of feeding methods, including the spectacular bubble net fishing technique.
Like other large whales, the Humpback was a target for the whaling industry, and its population fell by an estimated 90% before a whaling moratorium was introduced in 1966. Stocks of the species have since partially recovered, however entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with ships, and noise pollution are ongoing concerns. Current estimates for the abundance of Humpback Whales range from about 30,000 to 60,000, approximately one third of pre-whaling levels. Once hunted to the brink of extinction, Humpbacks are now sought out by whale-watchers, particularly off parts of Australia and the United States.