The blue whale and the humpback whale are two of the most incredible animals to ever live on planet earth, and while the two are many similarities, they are quite different from one another. These two whales are both classified as endangered due to various hazards such as habitat destruction, hunting, and climate change. 

Blue Whale (left) vs Humpback whale – visual comparison of the whales jumping out of water



The Main Differences Between a Blue Whale and Humpback Whale

Here are the top five main differences between the blue whale and humpback whale: 

  • Size: The blue whale is the largest creature on earth, around 2-3 times larger than the humpback whale.
  • Life span: Blue whales can live between 80-90 years
  • Sound: Blue whales make sounds as loud as a jet engine, and louder than humpback whales.
  • Shape: Blue whales are quite streamlined, compared to a humpback, which has a characteristic hump on its back, with hair follicles that cover its jaw too.
  • Color: The blue whale is actually quite grey in color, compared to the humpback, which is bluer in color.

We’ll explore these changes and interesting facts about each whale more below.

What is a Blue Whale? 

The blue whale is part of the baleen whale parvorder Mysticeti, also known as whalebone whales. It is famed as the largest creature ever to live on planet Earth. There are four recognized subspecies of whales, as noted by the Society for Marine Mammalogy. They are: 

  • B. m. musculus
  • B. m. intermedia
  • B. m. brevicauda
  • B. m. indica

These four subspecies live throughout the North Atlantic and Pacific, the Southern Ocean, the Indian Ocean and Northern Indian Ocean, and the South Pacific

Blue whales, like humpback whales, are classified as endangered. 

Blue Whale Appearance 

Blue whales are large, slender whales that are grey-blue in color. Their bodies are often mottled, with different patterns appearing on individuals. Their heads are large, broad, and flat with a “U” shape when seen from above. Their undersides are yellowish due to the accumulation of diatoms. Blue whales also have black baleen plates on the sides of their jaw and long, skinny flippers. 

A blue whale jumping out of the ocean
A blue whale jumping out of the ocean

Throughout the history of blue whale studies, there have been a total of thirty-three whales reaching over 98 feet in length and one that was as long as 108 feet. The female whales are larger than the males, with the largest ever weight of one of these incredible creatures coming in at 196 long tons (or more than 33 elephants according to World Wildlife). On average, a female blue whale is between 69 feet long 79 feet long. 

Blue Whale Diet and Mating Practices

Blue whales, the largest animals to ever live on the planet, are also some of the most interesting when it comes to their habits. They are filter feeders. This means that their diet is almost entirely made up of krill, of euphausiids. 

Blue whales can live for many years. Their age is judged by their earwax, which forms in layers throughout their lives. They can live between 80 to 90 years in the wild. They usually swim alone or may be found in groups of two or four. But, on some occasions, when a food source is quite rich, tens of whales can be seen feeding together, according to National Geographic. 

Birds eye view of a blue whale
The blue whale is the largest animal on Earth

Interestingly, blue whales are also the loudest animals on the planet. Their calls can reach 188 decibels, louder than a jet engine. This sound is projected at a low frequency that travels for miles and can be heard by other whales. Scientists believe that the sound is used to attract mates. 

It’s believed, according to Live Science, that blue whales reach maturity at 5-15 years old. Mating and birth take place during the winter, and gestation lasts around 10-12 months. Before mating, the male whale will follow the female around for weeks, sometimes racing and fending off a second male. It’s unknown how females choose a mate, and the mating process itself has never been documented. 

What is a Humpback Whale? 

The humpback whale, or Megaptera novaeangliae, is a species of baleen whale. It is known for its distinctive body shape and its grace in the water. There are three recognized subspecies living in the North Pacific, North Atlantic, and Southern Hemisphere. These three subspecies, as noted by Sci-News, evolved separately and are far more isolated than scientists initially believed. The Southern Hemisphere whales are noted for their lighter bodies and undersides when contrasted with the whales of the North Pacific and North Atlantic. There are also a few other subtle differences that set the species apart from one another. 

Humpback Whale Appearance 

Humpback whales are some of the most easily identifiable whales in Earth’s oceans. They have an obvious hump, from which they get their name and black dorsal coloring. Humpback whales have long pectoral fins and stocky bodies. Also, characteristic of these whales are the tubercles, or hair follicles, that cover their lower jaw. 

Humpback whale with distinctive tubercles
Humpback whale with distinctive tubercles

When fully grown, females are slightly larger than the males (as with blue whales). They can grow to a length of 52 feet, while the males can reach an average of 44 feet, significantly shorter than the blue whale. The largest humpback whale on record was a female weighing in at 99 short tons. But, most whales are between 28-33 short tons. 

Humpback Whale Diet and Mating Practices

Humpback whales, like blue whales, are filter feeders. They eat small fish and, like blue whales, krill. Sometimes they use group methods, like “coordinated bubble net feeding,” to bring prey together. There are also other bubble techniques used by different populations. They spend most of the warmer months feeding in order to prepare for the colder during which prey is harder to come by, and fat stores are more necessary, according to NOAA.

A humpback whale and baby swimming
A humpback whale and baby swimming

The humpback whale mating process has never been documented, like that practiced by blue whales. Male whales have been observed leaping and fighting with other males, and groups of up to ten whales have been spotted swarming around a single female. It’s also unknown how female humpback whales choose a mate. 

FAQs 

What is the main difference between a humpback whale and a blue whale? 

They are visually different. The blue whale is larger, greyer, and more streamlined. Humpbacks are noted for a distinctive hump on their back and a bluer coloring. They also have a small dorsal fin and long pectoral fins. 

What is bigger than a blue whale? 

No animal to ever walk, fly, or swim in the oceans of the Earth is or was bigger than the blue whale. They can be as long as 100 feet and weigh as much as 196 tons. 

Are blue whales humpback whales? 

No. These are two separate species of whale. Humpbacks are smaller, bluer whales, and blue whales are significantly larger greyer whales. 

Is the blue whale bigger than the Megalodon? 

Yes. The blue whale can grow up to five lines the size of the ancient Megalodon shark. They are also heavier than these sharks ever were.