Daily Food Requirements of a Humpback Calf
Every day, a mother humpback whale must produce between 100 and 130 gallons
of rich, caloric milk for her calf. She must do this throughout the first
eight to twelve months of the calf's life. Nourished with this nutritional
diet, the calf grows up to a foot per month in its first year. Although
during the calf's first summer with its mother in the colder, food-rich
waters of the north, some small fish may be ingested, the mother's milk
is the primary source of food for the calf. This quantity is so enormous
it is difficult to imagine. Likewise, it is difficult for us to visualize
a comparison between the size of a newborn humpback calf and the size of
Photo Courtesy of Leslie Rapp
In this activity students collect and display one-gallon milk jugs to represent
the daily quantity of milk that is consumed by a humpback calf, create a life-sized
painting of a humpback calf, and teach others what they learned.
In Your Classroom
Humpback calves need a lot of milk to grow. Just how much milk is 130 gallons?
Can anyone imagine?
- How much milk do you suppose the students in our class drink every day?
On the board, tally the number of 8 oz. glasses of milk students estimate
they consume each day. Then calculate the number of gallons.
- How long do you think it would take the families of all of our students
in our class to drink 130 gallons of milk? (Ask students how they could estimate
this answer, based on the above estimate.)
- Let's find out! Every day, have students bring milk containers to school
until you have 130 gallons. (Print this take
home letter for students to share their "Got Milk" exploration
with their families.)
Compare the nutritional qualities of whale milk with cow's milk.
Did you know--?
- whales' milk has less water than the milk of other mammals (40-50% versus
- whales'milk has much more fat (40-50% as compared with 2-17%)
- whales' milk has about twice the concentration of protein as milk of other
What facts can you find out about cow's milk? Use nutritional labels to learn
about milk. Where else could you look for information?
Look at a picture of a humpback whale. Use the picture to create a painting
of a 12-foot humpback calf (a calf looks similar to an adult, just smaller).
Create a poster to teach others about the humpback whale calf and its food
requirements. Compare this to your own classroom's milk consumption. Share
information you learned about the differences between whales' milk and cows,
milk. Make a display! Use your poster, the life-sized humpback calf painting
and your classroom collection of milk jugs to teach other classes what you
How do you manage that many milk jugs?
- tie the milk jugs together in a line and hang them from the ceiling
- string them around the room, or along the hallway (Be sure to get