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Wisdom Wednesday | What's in a Whale's Mouth

Shore Buddies Wisdom Wednesday 01/13/2021

Image of a humpback whale by Derek Troxell
Photo by Derek Troxell

Whales have HUGE mouths, extending to their belly buttons! This allows them to swallow a volume of water larger than themselves. Their throat stretches down to their navel. Tongue is the size of an elephant. You and 400 of your friends could fit in its mouth! Whales can be divided into two groups: the toothed whale and baleen whale. Whales with teeth can munch on fish and squids. Baleen whales feed on plankton and krill. The largest animal in the world feeds almost exclusively on one of the smallest – krill. Krill are on average 1 to 2 centimeters. This means that blue whales are about 1250 times larger than their food. They eat 4 to 6 tons of krill a day (that’s about 40 million krill! Whales  are filter feeders. They basically eat what’s stuck between their teeth, also known as bristles or beleen. To eat, whales open their mouth, swallow a volume of water bigger than themselves, then push all the water back out through their baleen. The baleen is like a comb, and the krill get stuck inside their mouths, so whales end up with a big mouthful of food.