Humpback Whale vs Blue Whale

Although Humpbacks and Blue Whales are from the same family, they are more different than many people realize. At first glance, these whales look very similar.

To help you distinguish between the two, we will discuss the differences in detail.

humpback and blue whales

What Are the Size Differences Between Humpbacks and Blue Whales?

One of the first noticeable differences between humpback whales and blue whales is their length. While both sea mammals can become massive, one grows larger than the other.

Blue whales typically grow longer than humpback whales. A blue whale averages between 80-100 feet long, while humpback whales only average 50-60 feet long.

Blue whales also weigh more than humpback whales. On average, blue whales range in weight from 100 to 160 tons. Humpback whales average between 40 to 100 tons.

To give you a better idea of how much these sea mammals weigh, consider that 100 tons equal 200,000 pounds. That is one big whale! A whale can weigh as much as a Boeing 757-200.

blue whale and humpback whale lengths

Differences in Appearance Between Humpback Whales and Blue Whales

Although an inexperienced viewer might see these two whales and be unable to tell them apart, there are some differences in appearance that offer clues.

For instance, blue whales get their names because their skin has a bluish hue. Humpback whales are gray in color.

Another difference in appearance is that the blue whale has smooth rubbery skin, whereas the humpback whale has a lot of ridges, bumps, and scarring on its body.

Both whales have baleen for eating their special diets. The whale’s baleen is used to take in great amounts of water and acts as a filter. The whale takes in the water and then spits it out. The food of the whale is left behind and consumed.

Understanding the Diet Differences Between Humpback Whales and Blue Whales

Another significant difference between these two whales is their diets. Because whales are in the same family, many people mistakenly believe these mammals consume the same diets.

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Both whales do eat fish and small crustaceans, but their primary source of food differs. The main source of food for blue whales is krill, and the primary source of food for humpback whales is plankton.

closeup of a blue whale
Blue whale

Differences in Lifespan: Which Whale Lives Longer?

As you begin to study humpback whales and blue whales, you will discover another difference. Humpback whales live just a little longer than humpback whales.

Blue whales, on average, live 30 to 45 years. Humpback whales live 45-50 years. Both whales can live longer or shorter lives, depending primarily on environmental factors.

You may be surprised to learn how marine biologists determine the age of a whale. They check the whale’s earwax! Earwax forms in layers throughout the whale’s life, much like the rings of a tree.

Which Whale Is More Endangered?

Yet another difference between blue whales and humpback whales is their endangered status. At this time, blue whales are listed as endangered, but their populations are increasing.

Humpback whales are listed with a conservation status of least concern, meaning they are plenteous.

The blue whale population has greatly diminished over the years because of commercial whaling activity. Today, blue whales are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

With the efforts of this protection, the number of blue whales is slowly rising.

Underwater shot of two humpback whales swimming near the surface
Underwater shot of two humpback whales swimming near the surface

Do Humpbacks or Blue Whales Make the Loudest Sounds?

Whales are consummate communicators. These mammals do not have vocal cords, so they cannot talk like you and I can, but whales do make sounds and communicate with one another.

Did you know a blue whale can make sounds louder than a jet engine? When it comes to comparing the loudness of humpback whales and blue whales, blue whales always win.

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Differences in Mating and Offspring Gestation

Blue whales reach maturity between the ages of 5 to 15 years. Both mating and birthing take place during the winter. It typically takes around 10-12 months for a blue whale to give birth after conception.

Humpback whales reach sexual maturity between the ages of 6 to 10. The gestation period for a humpback whale is usually around 12 months.

During the breeding season, which takes place between December and May, male humpback whales can be found throwing themselves into the air while they surround a single female and fight off other males who want to mate with her too.

Mother and calf humpback whales
Mother and calf humpback whales

Do Humpback Whales or Blue Whales Swim Faster?

Given their size, you would think whales would be extremely slow, but this is not necessarily correct. Both humpbacks and blue whales can travel faster than many people realize, but which swims faster?

Blue whales can travel up to 20 miles per hour but only swim 5 miles per hour when they are cruising. Humpback whales travel a little slower. They typically cruise at 3-9 miles per hour.

When in a hurry, humpback whales can travel as fast as 16.5 miles per hour. It looks like blue whales win in this category.

Humpbacks and Blue Whales are Majestic Creatures

Whales are some of the most amazing sea creatures on the planet. Even though it takes a tremendous amount of energy, these mammals can hurl themselves above water, performing beautiful acrobatics that astounds us humans.

While blue whales and humpback whales are undeniably similar, there are key differences that help us tell them apart. Now, you can identify the contrasts with the facts you have learned.

Large blue whale
Large blue whale

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