humpback whale (megaptera novaeangliae)

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Monterey Day 1 (May 4, 2017)

About 30 Humpback Whales congregated in 50 feet of water, lunge feeding on lots and lots of baitfish!

The bait was so thick, the ocean floor was barely visible on sonar. Multiple whales would come shooting out of the water all over the place. Just seeing one group of whales lunge feed is spectacular in and of itself, but seeing it happen all over the place for a long period of time was incredible! Harbor porpoises and lots of sea birds were in the mix too.

Viewed aboard the Blackfin at Monterey Bay Whale Watch. 

nature.com
Fossil of oldest known baleen-whale relative unearthed in Peru
Skeleton from South America enables palaeontologists to piece together the puzzle of baleen-whale evolution.

The discovery of a whale fossil dating back to 36.4 million years ago has filled in a gaping hole in the evolution of baleen whales, a group that includes humpbacks (Megaptera novaeangliae) and blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus). The creature, named Mystacodon selenensis, is the oldest baleen-whale relative yet found.

The skeleton displays traits that place it firmly as the first baleen-whale relative known to emerge after an ancient group of whale ancestors called basilosaurids split into two: one branch led to the toothed whales, which include sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) and dolphins, and the other to baleen whales. Researchers reported their findings on 11 May in Current Biology1.

“This is the fossil that we’ve been waiting for,” says Nick Pyenson, a palaeontologist at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC. Whale fossils from this time period can answer a lot of questions that researchers have about the origins of living whale lineages, he says. They include the appearance of the earliest baleen whale ancestors.

Continue Reading.

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Monterey Day 2 (May 5, 2017)

Very cool 8-hour trip with Monterey Bay Whale Watch! 

Got to spend the day with Alisa Schulman-Janiger, Nancy Black and many other cool people. Before we even left the dock, a curious female sea otter approached the boat and hung out with us while we finished boarding. Shortly after reaching the open ocean, we were greeted by a small pod of Common Dolphin then quickly found that the feeding fiesta of Humpback Whales from the previous day was continuing into the morning. They remained in the same relative area near the beach.

A gale wind warning was issued in the marine forecast and we were in a race to search for animals (primarily Killer Whales) before the winds hit. We zig-zagged across the submarine canyon in the middle of the bay but no Orca were in the area. When we reached the north part of the bay, we encountered a few more Humpbacks, a small pod of Risso’s dolphin and some interesting jellies.

Shortly after the winds started coming in hard, creating large wind waves and swells. Humpback Whales in the distance were breaching and pec slapping- though I did not want to take out my camera in very bumpy (and wet) conditions. As the winds got stronger, visibility decreased more and more and the swells became larger and very close together. It was quite an adventure getting back into the harbor!

flickr

Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) Lunge Feeding by Gregory “Slobirdr” Smith
Via Flickr:
The ventral throat pleats allow the humpback to take in enormous amounts of fish-filled ocean water. The constrict the the throat forcing the water through their balleen and retaining the fish…

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I didn’t get to see any orcas today, even though the other boat spotted a lone male that disappeared into the fog, but that’s okay. I got to see about 10 humpbacks throughout the day, culminating in an hour-long lunge-feeding session at the end of the day. We also saw pods of Risso’s and Pacific White-sided dolphins. It’s no wonder why Monterey is my favorite place to whale watch - I’ve never been disappointed. 😊

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Bowl of Whales
Whales are wonderous creatures. Clearly I am not the only person who thinks this is true, as this bowl found a happy home before it was finished. The humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae, is the featured species on on both the inside and outside of this bowl.

A few weeks ago I had the pure joy of watching humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) feeding off the northeast coast. There are hints of two feeding methods in this picture (along with a lot of happy birds). These whales are bubble net feeding, using veils of bubbles to trap and corral their fishy prey, then erupting from the center of the net with open mouths. But the whale on the right has a scratch on its upper jaw from a more common technique: bottom side-roll feeding, which involves scooping up prey that clusters on the sea floor.

vimeo

An absolutely precious video of a humpback whale calf snuggling with its mother in Hawaii, taken by a drone and a GoPro.

flickr

Humpback whales - Reunion Island by Cédric Péneau