Humpback whales are widely distributed in all oceans and in the southern region five to six isolated groups spend the summer in Antarctic waters before migrating past the western Australian coastline to winter in warmer oceans.
Humpback whales are characterised by their large flippers which can reach nearly one third of their total body length. The flippers are often totally or partly white in colour with scalloping, knobs and bumps on the leading edge. General body shape is well rounded then tapering to a slim head. In profile the head is very slim and almost ‘alligator-like’ in appearance, and marked by a scattering of fleshy knobs or protuberances which can extend down to the lower jaw. There are about 14 to 35 broad ventral grooves extending on the underside almost to the navel. Body colour is black or grey with white on the flippers, throat and belly. Animals can reach up to 16 m in length. Threats include direct killing (illegal in Australian waters), entanglement in nets or other water debris, collision with oceanic vessels. marine pollution leading to disease or strandings, e.g. oil spills. competition and depletion of food stocks by fisheries, especially unsustainable harvest of krill, disturbance and harassment.
Source; Bryant, S. L. and Jackson, J. (1999). Tasmania’s Threatened Fauna Handbook. Threatened Species Unit, Parks and Wildlife Service, Hobart.
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