Baleen Whales | Mysticeti
Baleen Whales | Mysticeti
Baleen whales are also called whalebones whales or Mysticeti or toothless whales. They are part of the Cetacea infraorder and possess an extraordinary modification of the mouth (also called baleen) used for filtering food from the water. They are the largest and heaviest carnivorous marine vertebrates that exist today and particularly live in chilly waters of the north and south poles. Baleen whales have small eyes situated close to the end of their mouth for seeing and sensing. Unlike toothed whales that have one blowhole, baleen whales have two blowholes and are regularly hunted for their blubber and oil.
Baleen whales are gentle giants of the ocean. Unlike their toothed relatives, they possess baleen plates in their mouths to filter-feed on tiny organisms. With large, streamlined bodies, they glide gracefully using strong flukes, which move vertically. They have two blowholes, allowing for efficient respiration. While they don't echolocate like toothed whales, they emit low-frequency sounds for communication that can travel vast distances. Their eyes are adapted for underwater vision, though they rely heavily on their keen sense of hearing in the vast oceans. Though these behemoths have a reduced sense of taste, they're perfectly designed for their planktonic diet.
Baleen whales (Mysticeti) have long captivated human imagination. Historically, they were hunted extensively for their blubber, baleen, and meat, leading to near-extinction for some species. Literature like Herman Melville's "Moby Dick" immortalized their majestic presence, and today, they're iconic symbols in pop culture, often representing nature's grandeur. Whale songs, particularly from the humpback, have inspired music and evoked wonder. In recent decades, conservation has become paramount. Moratoriums on commercial whaling and the establishment of protected marine areas have aimed to reverse declines. Whale-watching has become a sustainable alternative, celebrating these giants and emphasizing their vital role in marine ecosystems.
The Baleen Whale has 2 blowholes that serve as its nostrils and are situated at the top of its head. The blows of the Baleen Whale are considered to be bushier than those created by toothed whales who typically only have a single blowhole. Baleen Whales can also expand their throat to gulp large amounts of seawater.
The Baleen Whale typically eats krill, fish, zooplankton, phytoplankton, and algae. The Baleen Whale feeds by filtering or straining food from the water they consume. The Baleen Whale has baleen plates which they use to push water out while trapping their food inside for them to swallow.
It is believed that Baleen Whales evolved from a common ancestor who lived more than 23 to 25 million years ago. Unfortunately, the common ancestor has not been discovered, but probably lived within the Oligocene period. It is also believed that the earliest ancestor of the toothed whale lived during this time.