Baleen Whales Practice A Repertoire of Feeding Habits

Baleen Whales Practice A Repertoire of Feeding Habits

Contributed by Marielle Grenade-Willis

Baleen whales have recently been found to be much more passive hunters than previously expected. Traditionally, baleen whales have been known as “lunge-feeders”, meaning they swim at high speeds to acquire a large amount of seawater inside their mouth which is then strained through plates of keratin bristle. The “baleen” plates act as a filter system, allowing the water to exit while keeping sources of nutrients such as small crustaceans and fish for the whale to consume. Scientists have now discovered that Bryde’s whales, a species of baleen whale, also practice much more laid-back foraging techniques by simply “opening their mouth until the lower jaw contacts the sea surface and waiting for the prey to enter their mouth” according to Takashi Iwata, researcher at University of St. Andrews. What remains to be seen is whether this action is a normal part of the repertoire of baleen feeding or an adaptive strategy related to human caused pollution in its marine territory. Either way, as humans, our responsibility is not to encroach upon such a magnificent creature’s space but to honor its ways of expressing basic capabilities as foundational as feeding.