Other Free Encyclopedias » Animal Life Resource » Mammals » Pygmy Right Whale: Neobalaenidae - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, PYGMY RIGHT WHALE AND PEOPLE

Pygmy Right Whale: Neobalaenidae - Physical Characteristics

baleen jaw whales head

The pygmy right whale is the smallest of the baleen (buh-LEEN or BAY-leen) whales. It ranges from 5.2 to 7.2 feet (1.6-2.2 meters) in length and weighs around 4.5 tons (4,000 kilograms). Females are larger than males. The largest female ever recorded was 21.3 feet (6.45 meters), while the largest male was 20 feet (6.05 meters). The pygmy right whale is the only species in this family and should not be confused with right whales in the family Balaenidae.

Like all baleen whales, the pygmy right whale is a filter feeder. Pygmy right whales do not have teeth. Instead, it has many overlapping plates, called baleen plates, which hang like a curtain from the upper jaw. These plates are made of a material called keratin (KARE-ah-tin). This horny, fingernail-like material frays out into thin hairs at the end of each strand to make a strainer. The whale opens its mouth to feed and sucks in a lot of water. It then pushes the water out through the baleen plates and uses its tongue to lick up food that remains.

The pygmy right whale's head is one-fourth the size of its body. Its most noticeable characteristics are a highly arched jaw and large lips. Inside the pygmy's mouth are 460 ivory-colored baleen; these are lined up, with 230 on each side of the upper jaw. This baleen is thought to be more flexible and tougher than the baleen of any other species. Each piece varies from 1 to 28 inches (2.5 to 70 centimeters) wide and can be as long as 4 inches (10 centimeters). The size of each baleen depends on where it is in the mouth.

The head of the pygmy right whale has more hair than most other whales, with 100 hairs on the upper jaw and over 300 on the tip of the lower jaw. This whale has very small eyes, but good sight is not very important to it in finding food.

The pygmy right whale has a dark gray head that, with age, gets lighter along the lower jaw until it turns white on its underside. The back of the whale is also dark gray and has two blowholes located near the front of the head. Two-thirds of the way back is a very small dorsal (back) fin. The fin grows to be only about 6 inches (15 centimeters) high. The flippers are darker than the rest of the body. They are very narrow and are rounded at the ends.

Pygmy Right Whale: Neobalaenidae - Diet [next]

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or