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Megaptera novaeangliae - Humpback Whale
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Scientific Name: Megaptera novaeangliae
Authority: (Borowski, 1781)
English Common Name: Humpback Whale
Spanish Common Name(s): Rorcual Jorobado
Portuguese Common Name(s): None Known

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Class Order Family
Mammalia Cetacea Balaenopteridae

Taxonomic Comments: Clapham et al. (1993) reported that available evidence supports the hypothesis that the western North Atlantic population can be considered a single panmictic population; individuals from different high-latitude feeding areas intermix in the breeding range. However, Allen et al. (1994) found that "regional differences in fluke pigmentation suggest that the western North Atlantic population includes a number of relatively isolated subunits, as suggested previously by photoidentification and DNA studies."

Within Mexico, whales wintering off the Revillagigedo Islands are weakly but significantly differentiated genetically from those along the American Pacific coast (Medrano-Gonzalez et al. 1995).

MtDNA data indicate that several distinctive stocks exist in the Southern Hemisphere, with a low level of gene flow among them; also, shared identical nucleotypes occur in the Northern and Southern hemispheres (Baker et al. 1998).

Global Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Category: VU - Vulnerable  
CITES Status: Appendix I

Pelagic and coastal waters, sometimes frequenting inshore areas such as bays. Winters largely in tropical/subtropical waters near islands or coasts; summers in temperate and subpolar waters.

In the western North Atlantic, gives birth mainly over shallow wide banks near islands. Concentrates over shallower waters near the Hawaiian Islands (Tomich 1986). Off Hawaii, groups including a calf occurred in shallower waters than did groups lacking a calf (Smultea 1994).
Population Status

Distribution Status in Latin America

Native Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Falkland Islands (Malvinas), Grenada, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Martinique, Montserrat, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Venezuela, Virgin Islands, British, Virgin Islands, U.S.


  • Allen, J. M., et al. 1994. Regional and sexual differences in fluke pigmentation of humpback whales (MEGAPTERA NOVAEANGLIAE) from the North Atlantic Ocean. Canadian J. Zoology. 72:274-279.

  • Baker, C. S., L. Florez-Gonzalez, B. Abernathy, H. C. Rosenbaum, R. W. Slade, J. Capella, and J. L. Bannister. 1998. Mitochondrial DNA variation and maternal gene flow among humpback whales of the Southern Hemisphere. Marine Mammal Science 14:721-737.

  • Baker, C. S., and L. M. Herman. 1984. Aggressive behavior between humpback whales (MEGAPTERA NOVAEANGLIAE) wintering in Hawaiian waters. Canadian J. Zoology 62:1922-1937.

  • Baker, C. S., and L. M. Herman. 1987. Alternative population estimates of humpback whales (MEGAPTERA NOVAEANGLIAE) in Hawaiian waters. Canadian Journal of Zoology 65: 2818-2821.

  • Banfield, A. W. F. 1974. The mammals of Canada. University of Toronto Press, Toronto, Canada. 438 pp.

  • Clapham, P. J., D. K. Mattila, and P. J. Palsboll. 1993. High-latitude-area composition of humpback whale competitive groups in Samana Bay: further evidence for panmixis in the North Atlantic population. Canadian J. Zoology 71:1065-1066.

  • Clapham, P. J., and C. A. Mayo. 1987. Reproduction and recruitment of individually identified humpback whales, MEGAPTERA NOVAEANGLIAE, observed in Massachusetts Bay, 1979-1985. Canadian Journal of Zoology 65:2853-2863.

  • Clapham, P. J., and C. A. Mayo. 1987. The attainment of sexual maturity in two female humpback whales. Marine Mamm.Sci. 3:279-283.

  • Clapham, P. J., and D. K. Mattila. 1988. Observations of migratory transits of two humpback whales. Marine Mamm. Sci. 4:59-62.

  • Darling, J. D., and D. J. McSweeney. 1985. Observations onthe migrations of North Pacific humpback whales (MEGAPTERA NOVAEANGLIAE). Canadian J. Zoology 63:308-314.

  • Darling, J. D., and K. Mori. 1992. Recent observations of humpback whales (MEGAPTERA NOVAEANGLIAE) in Japanese waters off Ogasawara and Okinawa. Canadian J. Zoology 71:325-333.

  • Falklands Conservation. 2000. Falkland Islands wildlife. Falklands Conservation. Http://

  • Folkens, P. 1984. The whale watcher's handbook. Doubleday Co., Inc., Garden City, NY 208 pp.

  • Godin, A. J. 1977. Wild mammals of New England. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. 304 pp.

  • Hall, E. Raymond. 1981. The Mammals of North America, Vols. I & II. John Wiley & Sons, New York, New York. 1181 pp.

  • Herman, L. M. 1979. Humpback whales in Hawaiian waters: a study in historical ecology. Pacific Science 33:1-15.

  • IUCN (World Conservation Union). 1991. Dolphins, Porpoises and Whales of the World: the IUCN Red Data Book. M. Klinowska (compiler). IUCN, Gland, Switzerland, and Cambridge, United Kingdom. viii + 429 pp.

  • Katona, S. K., V. Rough, and D. T. Richardson. 1983. A Field guide to the whales, porpoises, and seals of the gulf of Maine and eastern Canada. Cape Cod to Newfoundland. Charles Scribner's Sons, N.Y. 255 pp.

  • Laerm, J., F. Wenzel, J. E. Craddock, D. Weinand, J. McGurk, M. J. Harris, G. A. Early, J. G. Mead, C. W. Potter, and N. B. Barros. 1997. New prey species for northwestern Atlantic humpback whales. Marine Mammal Science 13:705-711.

  • Leatherwood, S., and R. R. Reeves. 1983. The Sierra Club handbook of whales and dolphins. Sierra Club Books, San Francisco. 302 pp.

  • Matthews, J.R. and C.J. Moseley (eds.). 1990. The Official World Wildlife Fund Guide to Endangered Species of North America. Volume 1. Plants, Mammals. xxiii + pp 1-560 + 33 pp. appendix + 6 pp. glossary + 16 pp. index. Volume 2. Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Fishes, Mussels, Crustaceans, Snails, Insects, and Arachnids. xiii + pp. 561-1180. Beacham Publications, Inc., Washington, D.C.

  • Mattila, D. K., P. J. Clapham, O. Vasquez, and R. S. Bowman. 1994. Occurrence, population composition, and habitat use of humpback whales in Samana Bay, Dominican Republic. Canadian Journal of Zoology 72:1898-1907.

  • Mattila, D. K., et al. 1989. Population composition of humpback whales, MEGAPTERA NOVAEANGLIAE, on Silver Bank, 1984. Canadian J. Zoology 67:281-285.

  • Mazzuca, L., S. Atkinson, and E. Nitta. 1998. Deaths and entanglements of humpback whales, MEGAPTERA NOVAEANGLIAE, in the main Hawaiian Islands, 1972-1996. Pacific Science 52:1-13.

  • Medrano-Gonzalez, L., A. Aguayo-Lobo, J. Urban-Ramirez, and C. S. Baker. 1995. Diversity and distribution of mitochondrial DNA lineages among humpback whales, MEGAPTERA NOVAEANGLIAE, in the Mexican Pacific Ocean. Canadian Journal of Zoology 73:1735-1743.

  • Mobley, J. R., and L. M. Herman. 1985. Transience of social affiliations among humpback whales (MEGAPTERA NOVAEANGLIAE) on the Hawaiian wintering grounds. Canadian J. Zoology 63:762-772.

  • National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). 1985. Annual Report 1984/1985, Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.

  • Nowak, R. M. 1991. Walker's mammals of the world. Fifth edition. Vols. I and II. Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, Baltimore. 1629 pp.

  • Pacheco, V., H. de Macedo, E. Vivar, C. Ascorra, R. Arana-Cardó, and S. Solari. 1995. Lista anotada de los mamíferos peruanos. Conservation International, Washington, DC.

  • Rice, D. W. 1998. Marine mammals of the world: systematics and distribution. Society for Marine Mammalogy, Special Publication Number 4. ix + 231 pp.

  • Ridgway, S. H., and R. J. Harrison. 1985. Handbook of marine mammals. Vol. 3. The sirenians and baleen whales. Academic Press, New York. 362 pp.

  • Salden, D. R. 1988. Humpback whale encounter rates offshore of Maui, Hawaii. J. Wildlife Management 52:301-304.

  • Salden, D. R., L. M. Herman, M. Yamaguchi, and F. Sato. 1999. Multiple visits of individual humpback whales (MEGAPTERA NOVAEANGLIAE) between the Hawaiian and Japanese winter grounds. Canadian Journal of Zoology 77:504-508.

  • Smith, T. D., et al. 1999. An ocean-basin-wide mark-recapture study of the North Atlantic humpback whale (MEGAPTERA NOVAEANGLIAE). Marine Mammal Science 15:1-32.

  • Smultea, M. A. 1994. Segregation by humpback whale (MEGAPTERA NOVAEANGLIAE) cows with a calf in coastal habitat near the island of Hawaii. Canadian J. Zoology 72:805-811.

  • Tirira, D. 1999. Mamíferos del Ecuador. Museo de Zoología, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, Quito.

  • Todd, S., P. Stevick, J. Lien, F. Marques, and D. Ketten. 1996. Behavioural effects of exposure to underwater explosions in humpback whales (MEGAPTERA NOVAEANGLIAE). Canadian Journal of Zoology 74:1661-1672.

  • Tomich, P. Q. 1986. Mammals in Hawai'i. A synopsis and notational bibliography. Second edition. Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu. 375 pp.

  • Volgenau, L., S. D. Kraus, and J. Lien. 1995. The impact of entanglements on two substocks of the western North Atlantic humpback whale, MEGAPTERA NOVAEANGLIAE. Canadian Journal of Zoology 73:1689-1698.

  • Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder (editors). 1993. Mammal Species of the World: a Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. Second Edition. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. xviii + 1206 pp. Available online at:

  • Winn, L. K., and H. E. Winn. 1985. Wings in the sea. The humpback whale. Univ. Press of New England, Hanover, New Hampshire. 151 pp.

Summary Text | Overview Map | West Caribbean Map  | East Caribbean Map | Range Map

Overview Map
Note: indicates countries of occurrence, actual area occupied by the species is usually much less.

Summary Text |  Overview Map | West Caribbean Map  | East Caribbean Map | Range Map

West Caribbean Map
Note: indicates countries of occurrence, actual area occupied by the species is usually much less.

Summary Text |  Overview Map | West Caribbean Map  | East Caribbean Map | Range Map

East Caribbean Map
Note: indicates countries of occurrence, actual area occupied by the species is usually much less.

Summary Text |  Overview Map |  West Caribbean Map  |  East Caribbean Map |  Range Map

Range Map
No map available.

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Data last updated: April 2007
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