Classification and Evolutionary History of Humpback Whales

Classification 
Kingdom-Animalia (animals)
Phylum-Chordata (vertebrates)
Class-Mammalia (mammals)
Order-Cetacea (whales, dolphins and porpoises)
Suborder-Mysticeti (baleen whales)
Family-Balaenopteridae
Genus-Megaptera
Species-novaeangliae


Phylogenetic tree illustrating the evolution of marine mammals

The ancestors of modern whales lived on land.  The fossil record tells us that around 52-42 million years ago in present day Pakistan, they began to spend more and more of their time in the ocean and eventually became fully aquatic--living, feeding and giving birth in the ocean.  Since then, they have evolved into the approximately 87 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises found throughout the world today.

Suggested reading: 
Humpbacks Unveiling the Mysteries by Jim Darling
At the Water’s Edge by Carl Zimmer
Whales and Dolphins in Question by James G Mead and Joy P Gold

References:

Recovery Plan for the Humpback Whale (Megaptera Novaeangliae) Prepared by the Humpback Whale Recovery Team for the National Marine Fisheries Service, Silver Spring, Maryland. 105 pp. 1991.

Calambokidis J, Falcone EA, Quinn TJ, Burdin AM, Clapham PJ, Ford JKB, Gabriele CM, LeDuc R, Mattila D. Rojas-Bracho L, Straley JM, Taylor BL, Urban J, Weller D, Witteveen BH, Yamaguchi M, Bendlin A, Camacho D, Flynn K, Havron A, Higgins J, Maloney N. SPLASH: Structure of populations, levels of abundance and status of humpback whales in the North Pacific. Cascadia Research for U.S. Department of Commerce, Olympia, WA. 2002.

Mead, James G. and Joy P. Gold.  Whales and Dolphins in Question.  Smithsonian Institute. Washington D.C. 2002.

Darling, Jim. Humpbacks: Unveiling the Mysteries. Granville Island Publishing. Vancouver, Canada. 2009.

Berta, Annalisa and James L. Sumich.  Marine Mammals: Evolutionary  Biology.  Academic Press.  San Diego, CA. 1999.

Chadwick, Douglas. “Listening to Humpbacks.”  National Geographic. Vol 196.  Washington, D.C.July, 1999.

Witteveen, Briana H.  Abundance and Feeding Ecology of Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in Kodiak, Alaska.  M.S. Thesis.  University of Alaska Fairbanks.  Juneau, AK.  2003.