Monday, January 9, 2012

The Gray Whale - Bottom Feeder

At 40 feet in length and weighing up to 40 tons, gray whales certainly look similar to other giant whales such as the humpback and blue whale. However, gray whales feed in a manner that it very different from other baleen whales.
Instead of teeth, most large whales have comb-like plates in their mouths called baleen. These plates are made from a material that is similar to human hair and fingernails, and serve to trap small animals such as plankton and krill between their rows when the whale feeds.

Baleen plates
Whereas other baleen whales feed by swimming through schools of plankton with their mouths agape, the gray whale feeds by diving to the sea floor, turning on its right side and scooping sediment into its mouth. The tiny crustaceans and tubeworms in the sediment become entangled in the baleen plates, and then the water and sand in the whale’s mouth can be expelled. Being as almost all gray whales feed by turning on their right sides, it is common for older whales to lose sight in their right eyes due to damage from the sea floor.

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