A female humpback whale has managed to swim herself into the record books this week, by migrating a distance of 6,125 miles or almost a quarter of the globe and about twice the distance normally covered by migrating whales.
The epic journey, which began on the East Coast of Brazil and ended in Madagascar, was discovered accidently by Dr. Peter Stevick of the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust. It turns out the whale was first photographed by researchers in 1999 off the coast of Brazil. Just over two years later, the same whale was among three that were photographed by a commercial whale watching boat.
Dr. Stevick, who just recently received the two photos for review, was able to tell it was the same female since they both clearly showed the humpback's pectoral fin markings, which are unique to each mammal, making it easy to identify individual whales
While the scientists are impressed at the whale's long distance swim, especially given that female humpbacks are not known to be adventurous, they are more encouraged that she went through such lengths to seek out new breeding grounds. This proves that the whales are more flexible than had been previously believed, and therefore, able to adapt and survive in a constantly changing environment.
Humpback whales, who get their name from the distinctive humps on their body belong to the family of Baleen Whales, which includes the world's largest mammal, the Blue Whale. While not as large, humpbacks can get pretty big, with adults ranging in length from 39-52 feet and weighing over 79,000 pounds. The whales typically do most of their feeding during the summer months, when they are in the polar regions, and spend the winters living off the fat, as they migrate about 3,000 miles to their tropical breeding grounds.
Sources: treehugger.com, wikipedia.org.