Part I. Information about Whales

Whales of the Hawaiian Islands 

All of the whale species listed below are considered native to the Hawaiian Islands because they have been seen in waters near the Hawaiian Islands. However, some of these species are migratory, and seen only seasonally, while others are seen only occasionally or rarely in Hawaiian waters.

Whale Species

Length/Weight (Average)

Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)

Female: 45 feet (14 m) / 35 tons (32 mtons)

Male: 43 feet (13 m) / 35 tons (32 mtons)

 

Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus)

Female: 75 feet (23 m) / 76 tons (69 mtons)

Male: 65 feet (20 m) / 68 tons (62 mtons)

 

Bryde’s Whale (Balaenoptera edeni)

Female: 45 feet (14 m) / 20 tons (18 mtons)

Male: 40 feet (12 m) / 20 tons (18 mtons)

Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus)

Female: 40 feet (12 m) / 18 tons (16 mtons)

Male: 55 feet (17 m) / 40 tons (36 mtons)

Right Whale (Eubalaena glacialis)

Female: 50 feet (15 m) / 70 tons (64 tons)

Male: 50 feet (5 m) / 70 tons (64 mtons)

Pilot Whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus)

Female: 12 feet (4 m) / 1.5 tons (1.4 mtons)

Male: 16 feet (5 m) / 2.5 tons (2.3 mtons)

Killer Whale (Ornicus orca)

Female: 23 feet (7 m) / 4 tons (3.6 mtons)

Male: 28 feet (8.5 m) / (8 tons (7.3 mtons)

False Killer Whales (Pseudorca crassiden)

Female: 13 feet (4 m) / 1 ton (.9 mton)

Male: 16 feet (4.9 m) / 500 pounds (227 kg)

Pygmy Killer Whales (Feresa attenuata)

Female: 7 feet (2.1 m) / 330 pounds (150 kg)

Male: 7.5 feet (2.3 m) / 375 pounds (170 kg)

Melon-Headed Whales (Peponocephala electra)

Female: 7.5 feet (2.3 m) / 350 pounds (159 kg)

Male: 7.5 feet (2.3 m) / 350 pounds (159 kg)

Pygmy Sperm Whales (Kogia breviceps)

Female: 10 feet (3 m) / 800 pounds (363 (kg)

Male: 10 feet (3 m) / 800 pounds (363 (kg)

Dwarf Sperm Whales (Kogia simus)

Female: 8 feet (2.4 m) / 375 pounds (170 kg)

Male: 8 feet (2.4 m) / 375 pounds (170 kg)

Minke Whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata)

Female: 30 feet (9 m) / 8.5 tons (7.7 mtons)

Male: 26 feet (8 m) / 8.5 tons (7.7 mtons)

Bottlenose Whale (Hyperoodon ampullatus)

Female: 24 feet (7.3 m) / 3 tons (2.7 mtons)

Male: 28 feet (8.6 m) / 4 tons (3.6 mtons)

Cuvier’s Beaked Whale (Ziphius cavirostris)

Female: 21 feet (6.4 m) / 4 tons (3.6 mtons)

Male: 20 feet (6 m) / 4 tons (3.6 mtons)

Blainville’s Beaked Whale (Mesoplodon densirostris)

Female: 15 feet (4.6 m) / 2 tons (1.8 mtons)

Male: 15 feet (4.6 m) / 2 tons (1.8 mtons)



 

Facts About Humpback Whales
Anatomy
Humpback Life Cycle
Physiology
Humpback Feeding / Baleen
Humpback Gestation and Birthing
Humpback Population Estimates 
Odontocetes—Toothed Whales
Mysticetes—Baleen Whales
Cetacean Sound Transmission
Humpback Songs
The Ocean 
Water and Air 


 

Facts About Humpback Whales
Anatomy
Average length of adult female: 45 feet.
Average length of adult male: 43 feet.
Largest recorded humpback: 88 feet.
Typical width of tail fluke: 10 to 15 feet.
Typical weight of mature adult: 40 tons.
Percent of total body weight comprised by the skeletal system (adult): 15%.
Percent of body weight comprised by the skeletal system of a typical terrestrial mammal: 50%.
Number of vertebrate: 53 (7 cervical, 14 thoracic, 10 lumbar, 22 caudal).
Typical number of tubercles on each side of lower jaw: 10 to 15.
Typical length of sensory hairs (vibrissa): 1 inch.
 
Humpback Life Cycle
Average size of calf at birth: 10 to 16 feet.
Average weight of calf at birth: 2 tons.
Age of puberty: 2 to 4 years.
Age of sexual/reproductive maturity: 3 to 6 years.
Age of physical maturity: 10 to 12 years.
Natural life span: 30 to 60 years.
Oldest recorded humpback: At least 50 years.


 

Physiology
Adult resting metabolic rate: 340,000 kilocalories per day.
Kilocalories devoted to breathing per day: 68,000.
Percent of energy expended by humpbacks for breathing: 20%.
Percent of air in lungs exchanged during typical breath for humpbacks: 90%.
Percent of air in lungs exchanged during typical breath for humans: 15%.
Typical time underwater before surfacing to breathe: 10 to 15 minutes.
Percent of their life that humpbacks spend at surface: 70%.
Swimming speed of humpback: 3 to 20 miles per hour.
Humpback body temperature: 97 to 99 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ratio of marine mammal’s heat dissipation to land animal’s heat dissipation: 24 to 1.
Number of lobes in humpback’s kidney: Up to 3,000.
Typical number of lobes in a cow’s kidney: 25.
Function of humpback kidney lobes: Remove salt from water.
Weight of acorn barnacles typically found on one humpback in Alaskan waters: 1,000 pounds.
Speed of air emitting from humpback blowholes during exhalation: Up to 300 m.p.h.
Length of wax ear plugs in auditory canal of adult humpback: Nearly 3 feet.
Use of wax ear plugs by researchers: Annual light and dark layers provide age estimates.
Average rate of humpback heartbeat: 10 to 30 beats per minute.
Breathing rate: Typically 1 to 2 times per minute at rest; 4 to 8 times per minute after a deep dive.
Typical swimming speed: 3 to 9 miles per hour.
Typical dive time: 15 minutes (may exceed 30 minutes).
Dive depth: May exceed 700 feet.
Most common pod size: 2 to 3 whales.


 

Humpback Feeding / Baleen
Length of expansion of humpback mouth during feeding: 15 feet.
Length of intestines: 200 feet.
Number of vestigial teeth in fetal humpback: 56 upper, 84 lower (all eventually reabsorbed into gums).
Length of baleen plates prior to birth: 1 to 2 inches.
Number of baleen plates in mouth: 270 to 400 (average 335).
Maximum length of baleen: 2.5 feet.
Average width of baleen plates: 6 inches.
Number of bristles per baleen plate: 35 or less.
Color of baleen: Dark gray to black; lighter and more yellowish near end-bristles.
Gallons of water taken into mouth during feeding: 500 to 1,000.
Typical number of ventral pleats (throat grooves, chin to navel): 12 to 36.
Typical food quantity in one mouthful: 40 to 50 pounds. 
Typical bubblenet diameter: 30 to 40 feet. 
 


 

Humpback Gestation and Birthing
Gestation Period: 10 to 12 months.
Percent of fat in mother’s milk: 40 to 50%.
Typical fat content of milk of domestic animals: 2 to 17%.
Percent of humpback milk that is water: 40 to 50%.
Typical percentage of water in milk for domestic animals: 80 to 90%.
Gallons of milk produced by nursing humpback mother per day: 100 to 130.
Lactation Duration of Mother: 8 to 12 months.
Typical length of newborn humpback: 12 feet.
Typical weight of newborn humpback: 2 tons.
Typical increase in length in first year: 12 feet.
Preferred temperature of breeding waters: 75 Fahrenheit, 25 Celsius.
Preferred depth of bays for breeding: 600 feet or less.
Average weight loss of mother during pregnancy and birth: 25% / 6 to 8 tons.
Length of migration (round-trip): About 7,000 miles. 
 


 

Humpback Population Estimates 
1905 North Pacific humpback population estimate: 15,000.
Year intensive commercial harvesting of humpbacks began: 1910.
1930 North Pacific humpback population estimate: 6,000.
1960 North Pacific humpback population estimate: Less than 1,000 whales.
North Pacific humpbacks killed from 1960 to 1965: 5,000.
1966 North Pacific humpback population estimate: 1,000-2,000
Year that International Whaling Commission banned killing of North Pacific humpbacks: 1966.
1985 population of humpbacks in Glacier Bay: 10; 1992: 27; 1994: 17.
1986 North Pacific humpback population estimate: 1,500 (800 to 2,000).
Worldwide humpback population estimate before intensive whaling: 200,000.
2006 North Pacific humpback population estimate: More than 10,000 (population is growing 6-8% per year).
2006 population of humpbacks wintering in Hawaiian waters: Estimates range from 3,000 to 5,000. 
 


 

Odontocetes—Toothed Whales
Species of toothed whales: At least 70.
Species of toothed whales seen around Hawai‘i: 19.
Average length of largest Odontocete: 55 feet (sperm whale).
Number of teeth in Odontocetes: From 1 to 260.
Mysticetes—Baleen Whales
Species of baleen whales: At least 72.
Species of baleen whales seen around Hawai‘i: 5.
Length of largest baleen whale, the blue whale: 110 feet.
Cetacean Sound Transmission
Typical duration of echolocation click: 50 to 128 microseconds.
Bottlenose dolphin range: .25 to 150 kHz.
Typical dolphin hearing threshold: 120 kHz.
Low frequency (social communication): .75 to 50 kHz.
High frequency (echolocation): 40 to 150 kHz.
Human hearing range: 16 to 20 kHz.
Typical baleen whale sound frequencies: Less than 5 kHz.
Baleen whale frequency range: Up to 200 kHz.
Humpback Songs
Typical length of humpback song: 6 to 30 minutes.
Length of song session: May exceed 24 hours.
Typical number of themes in one song: 7.
Typical humpback song volume: 170 decibels.


 

The Ocean 
Summer: Typical surface temperature of Alaskan waters: 42 degrees Fahrenheit.
Winter: Typical surface temperature of Hawaiian waters: 72 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius).
Air Pressure at sea level: 14.7 pounds per square inch (equal to one atmosphere).
Weight of one-inch square column of air from sea level to 100,000 feet: 1 atmosphere.
Increase in air pressure for every 33 feet of depth in water: 1 atmosphere.
Average depth of Pacific Ocean: 12,000 feet.
Cubic miles of water in Earth’s oceans: 300 million.
Percent of Earth’s surface covered by oceans: 70.
Percent of Earth’s water in oceans: 97.
Percent of volcanic activity on Earth that occurs underwater: 80.
Water and Air
Ratio of weight of water to weight of air: 800:1.
Ratio of water density to air density: 900:1.
Speed of heat conductivity in water vs. air: 30:1.
Speed of sound in water: ~.9 miles/second (1.5 km./sec.).
Ratio of speed of sound in water vs. speed of sound in air: 4.5:1.

Ratio of heat dissipation—marine animals:land animals: 24:1.