Humpback whales are some of the largest animals on Earth, but other animals will prey on them. In this article, we look at the most common predators of humpback whales.
A few shark species, along with killer whales and humans, prey on humpback whales. However, humpback whales have some effective defense mechanisms.
Please read on if you want more information on which animals prey on humpback whales and how they protect themselves.
Which Animals Attack Whales?
Humpback whales grow to 50 feet, leaving many wondering whether any animals prey on such big marine mammals. However, some animals prey on whales.
Humpback whales have a few natural predators. Humpback whales are found in almost all oceans and usually migrate from one ocean to the other.
Like any other animal in this world, whales are at risk of predators. There are animals even smaller than whales that attack and kill whales for food. However, few animals manage to make prey for humpback whales.
What Are The Predators Of Humpback Whales?
Whales have a few natural predators. Here we break down which predators can kill humpback whales.
Although humpback whales have a few other predators, humans are their number one enemies. Despite laws and regulations set aside by International organizations, some continue killing whales for their fat, oil, and meat.
Humans are the main reason why many whale species are endangered. Available statistics show that more than 200,000 southern humpback whales were killed by commercial operations intentionally.
It was estimated that about 95% of all whales that died were hunted and killed by humans in the last century. Humpback whales are still hunted in some areas, including whalers from Japan, Iceland, and Norway.
All these actions are bending the international moratorium, which calls for stiffer measures by the International whaling commission.
Please find out how whales evolved in this article I wrote
The tiger shark and the great white species of shark are very aggressive, and they can prey on humpback whales. However, it is challenging to target large whales.
This is the main reason why sharks will always target both calves and weaker humpback whales. Great white sharks have been observed off Australia’s coast following humpback whales, especially when they are migrating.
Sharks follow humpback whales as they migrate to their breeding area. As you expect, the process of preying on such big animals is not a small battle.
The sharks will follow the whales, biting them continually until the whale cannot swim any longer. The bleeding whale in the water will attract more sharks to join until the whale gives up.
The clue is in the name; killer whales are killers of whales. Killer whales are likely to attack calves and the most vulnerable groups, such as the sick.
Many humpback whales have scars as a result of such attacks. The Orcas are likely to attack the whales from the tail because they assume they will be defenseless.
However, orcas never swim to warmer tropics, which is why they don’t usually attack pacific humpback breeds around Hawaii.
Whales face additional threats, especially from human activities such as chemical and organic pollution. These activities usually affect their reproductive and immune system.
Additionally, whales rely heavily on hearing and echolocation to move around the sea. This means that noise pollution in the waters significantly affects their life.
Humans have invested heavily in sonar systems and other technological devices to search for offshore oil and natural gases, which can interfere with their navigation.
This can affect whales’ navigation, sometimes causing them to swim into shallow waters and close to the shore. This behavior can also increase the risk of predation.
Do Whales Eat Humans?
Most whale species are friendly, but many wonder whether whales can kill humans. In most cases, whales target small aquatic life forms, including krill, fish, and squid.
Historically, people believed that whales could consume humans, but this is not true. There are no indications that whales can eat humans.
What Can Eat A Humpback Whale?
Whales are giant, so they have few natural enemies. However, they are likely to be targeted by sharks, orcas, and humans. They are also vulnerable to most human activities.
As you may know, whales migrate from one place to another, searching for breeding areas and food. When humans pollute the water with chemicals and plastics, these animals can die or have defects affecting their immune and reproductive systems.
Human beings kill whales for many reasons. Some Japanese whalers target these animals for food, while others target whales for their oil, which is used to form candle wax, among other things.
However, many whale-hunting regulations have saved these animals in the late 20th century and 21st century.
How Do Humpback Whales Protect Themselves From Predators?
The primary predators of whales are humans, sharks, and killer whales. The polar bear can attack whales, but humpback whales would be much too large for a single polar bear.
Humpback whales have some defense mechanisms to help them tackle most of the cold waters’ challenges.
The primary defense mechanism of a whale is its tail. A humpback whale can scare or injure a predator with its bottom.
Like dolphins, whales can also use their head to scare away predators and other marine enemies. However, they cannot use their authority to ram predators as dolphins can.
The size of a humpback whale is also a natural defense mechanism. Most predators see whales as enormous animals that cannot be killed that easily.
The smaller species will travel in packs, which means they can stop a shark from swimming. Sharks should be in motion to oxygenate efficiently. Although this is not a very effective defense mechanism, it helps save smaller whales’ lives when attacked.
Most sharks don’t kill whales because of their size, as there are other more accessible food sources in the water. However, when the great white shark is hungry enough, it will likely attack whales for food.
Humpback whales will dive deep to take refuge in the deep waters, especially when killer whales attack them. The killer whales and many other predators cannot follow them to depths 200 meters. Humpback whales can hold their breath for up to 30 minutes.
The migration of humpback whales to Hawaii and other tropical waters effectively reduces their calves’ risk of being attacked by killer whales. Orcas do not migrate to warmer waters.
Killer whales are present in all oceans, but they are unlikely to follow humpback whales to the more temperate areas.
Living in Groups
Researchers believe that one of the main reasons why humpback whales live in groups is to reduce predation. As a group, they can scare away predators or even attack and kill them.
Whales are known to possess some suitable measures that scare away the predator. They usually migrate in circles with their head pointing in and their tails out. In case of any attack, each whale will use its tail accordingly to kill the predator.
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Bryan Harding is a member of the American Society of Mammalogists and a member of the American Birding Association. Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Bryan serves as owner, writer, and publisher of North American Nature.