The humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is a species of baleen whale found in oceans all around the world. Adults range in length from 12–16m and weigh about 36,000kg. The humpback has a distinctive body shape, with long pectoral fins and a knobbly head. It is known for breaching and other distinctive surface behaviors, making it popular with whale watchers. Males produce a complex song lasting 10 to 20 minutes, which they repeat for hours at a time.
Humpbacks can easily be identified by their stocky body, obvious hump, black dorsal coloring and elongated pectoral fins. The head and lower jaw are covered with knobs called tubercles, which are hair follicles and are characteristic of the species. The fluked tail, which typically rises above the surface when diving, has wavy trailing edges. Humpbacks have 270 to 400 darkly colored baleen plates on each side of their mouths. The plates measure from 18in in the front to about 3ft in the back, behind the hinge.
Both male and female humpback whales vocalize, but only males produce the long, loud, complex “song” for which the species is famous. Each song consists of several sounds in a low register, varying in amplitude and frequency and typically lasting from 10 to 20 minutes.
Individuals may sing continuously for more than 24 hours. Cetaceans have no vocal cords, instead, they produce sound via a larynx like structure found in the throat, the mechanism of which has not as of yet been clearly identified. Whales do not have to exhale to produce sound.