Review and images by callmejoe3; edited by bmathison1972
This review will cover an exceptional mysticete, the humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae). The humpback is a well-recognized whale due to its breaching behavior and unique appearance. While placed in a separate genus from most other rorquals, modern genomic studies consistently report the humpback whale as the closest relative to the fin whale (Balenoptera physalus). Experts recognize four subspecies across the North Atlantic (M. n .novaeangliae), North Pacific (M. n. kuzira), southern hemisphere (M. n. australis), and Arabian Sea (M. n. indica). Like other baleen whales, humpbacks are migratory, moving between mid to high-latitude waters to feed during the summers and migrating to low latitude waters to breed during the winters. They travel anywhere from 8,461 to 18,840 kilometers roundtrip for their migrations. The exceptions are the isolated Arabian sea subspecies, which are resident in tropical and subtropical waters year-round. Humpback whales grow on average to lengths of 11-15 meters and 25-35 tons. Humpback whale historically grew to 18.6 meters and 40 tons, but they rarely exceed 16 meters currently. Humpback whales are known to intercept predators from attacking other humpback whales and even other species such as grey whales, minke whales, seals, and sea lions. Thought to be either a mobbing behavior or possibly even interspecific altruism. Humpback whales are mainly famous for their vocalizations, with sexually mature males near-exclusively producing the most complex songs. Theories suggest that these songs aid in facilitating interactions with other males and possibly in attracting females by forming coalitions of males. Males are very competitive and aggressive for access to female mates. Their global IUCN status has been ‘Least Concern’ as of 2018 with a minimum estimate of 140,000 individuals, with 90,000 in the southern hemisphere. Humpbacks experienced a dramatic recovery as commercial whaling depleted many populations to below 5% of their pre-whaling numbers. The Arabian Sea population is listed as ‘Endangered’ with an estimate of 89 individuals. Humpback whales are adaptable lunge and gulp-feeders that also form cooperative bubble-nets to capture schooling fish. They feed primarily on krill and a variety of schooling fish. Killer whales, large sharks, and false killer whales are known to hunt calves alongside sick and injured adults.
In 2000, Schleich released a sea-life lineup that included 1:32 scale figures of the gray whale, humpback whale, and sperm whale. Each of these replicas was manufactured by the Portuguese company, Maia & Borges, and were re-released by other brands once the Schleich versions were retired in 2012. I have previously covered both the sperm whale and gray whale figures along with their multiple variants in the past, and today I will finish off with the humpback whale.
The M&B humpback whale is a very large model at 315 mm in length, second only to the infamous 362 mm Monterey Bay Aquarium figure. The MBA figure scales to 14.47-meter/47.4-foot individual at its intended 1:40 scale. At its intended 1:32 scale, the M&B humpback whale equates to a 10-meter/33-foot individual or 12.6-meter/41.3-foot individual at the 1:40 scale.
Now as for the sculpt, the M&B whales continue their trend of being incredibly detailed. The skin contains little scratches while also including little folds and hints of the underlying musculature. Barnacles are also sculpted around the chin, pectoral fins, and flukes. One minor complaint I have is that I believe the dorsal fin is a touch too big. I harbor a greater criticism regarding the descending portion of the mouthline being a bit too deep. The face will be an area of further criticism upon viewing the whale from another perspective.
Looking at the belly, we can notice more of the barnacles and the lack of genital slits, much like the other two M&B whales. Along the rostrum we notice little bumps known as tubercles arranged in neat rows, though they are not usually this ordered on the real animal. And a closer inspection of the rostrum in its entirety reveals the main issue plaguing this otherwise impressive figure: the rostrum is too triangular. In real life, the humpback’s rostrum is more of a ‘’U’’-shape, which the MBA humpback captured quite right. An inaccurate head shape was also the case with the sperm whale from this line, though it proves more distracting in this case. While not exactly an accurate depiction of the animal in all respects, I would still compliment the sculpt for at least being aesthetically pleasing.
On a more positive note, next is the discussion of the paintjob. The above photos represent the Mojo Fun 2020 release. The base color is a dark gray with the throat, stomach, and the underside of the pectoral fins and flukes painted white. The barnacles are painted a light-gold color, similar to the barnacles on the 2017 gray whale. Good attention is brought in discretely painting each individual cluster of barnacles while staying within the boundaries. Interestingly, the bottom white/top-black coloration of the pectoral fins is a characteristic phenotype of the North Pacific subspecies of humpback whales, exhibited by about 2/3rds of all individuals. Overall, this paintjob is pretty accurate to the coloration of the humpback whale and does very well in accentuating the detail of the sculpt.
This is the 2000 Schleich release. The coloration is mostly the same as the Mojo figure except the underside of the fluke is not white and the top side of the pectoral fins are partially white. While the overall lack of white on the underside of the fluke is a bit unusual compared to most figures, this trait is within the reasonable variation that has been documented on individuals. The barnacles are a more golden-brown color with less clean coverage as clusters of barnacles are continuously painted together across the skin, unlike the Mojo release. Another detail to note are the white dots extending from the dorsal fin to the base of the fluke. This detail is not normally seen on humpbacks and I chalk this up to Schleich’s trend of adding extra white dots and patches for aesthetical appeal, much like on the paintjobs for the sperm whale and gray whale from this line. This decision comes at the cost of accuracy for the sperm whale and humpback, which unlike the gray whale, do not possess these markings in real life. I will say while this feature is not exactly accurate, I do find it aids in making the figure look more visually striking.
Both paintjobs have their qualities, but I am going to have to give it to the Mojo figure. Overall, it has an edge over the Schleich release in both accuracy and polish.
In the end, the Maia & Borges humpback whale is certainly an impressive figure in a lot of areas of its sculpt and paintjob. However, I would say its qualities are more skewed toward its aesthetical appeal rather than its accuracy. In terms of accuracy, I consider the Monterey Bay Aquarium figure to be superior, specifically regarding its rostrum shape and the arrangement of the tubercles. It is a nice figure, but I can only give a strong recommendation to those who are looking for something good-looking rather than a faithful reference model.