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Humpback whales are well known for their long "pectoral" fins, which can be up to 15 feet (4.6 m) in length. Their scientific name, Megaptera novaeangliae, means "big-winged New Englander" as the New England population was the one best known to Europeans. These long fins give them increased maneuverability; they can be used to slow down or even go backwards.
The habitat of humpback whales consists of polar to tropical waters, including the waters of the Artic, Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans, as well as the waters surrounding Antartica and the Bering Strait. During migration, they are found in coastal and deep oceanic waters. Generally, they do not come into coastal waters until they reach the lattitudes of Long Island, New York, and Cape Cod, Massachessetts.