Other Free Encyclopedias » Animal Life Resource » Mammals » Right Whales and Bowhead Whales: Balaenidae - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Right Whales And Bowhead Whales And People, Conservation Status - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT

Right Whales and Bowhead Whales: Balaenidae - Physical Characteristics

baleen plates mouth water

Right whales and bowhead whales are baleen (buh-LEEN or BAY-leen) whales. Like all baleen whales, these whales are filter feeders. Right whales and bowhead whales do not have teeth. Instead, they have many overlapping plates, called baleen plates that 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, caught by the plates.

Right whales and bowhead whales are generally between 43 and 65 feet (13 to 20 meters) long. They weigh between 168,000 and 224,000 pounds (76,200 to 101,600 kilograms). They have large heads and a curved mouth that allows them more baleen surface than baleen whales with a straight mouth. Because they are mammals, whales must come to the surface of the water to breathe. They breathe through a blowhole located on top of their head. The blowhole is connected to the lungs.

Bowhead and right whales are almost entirely black, but they do have a patch of white around their chin, as well as a band of lighter color on their tail. The easiest way to tell the difference between a bowhead whale and a right whale is that right whales have bumps around their head, near their mouth, and around their eyes. These bumps are actually places where small animals known as whale lice live. These parasites are not thought to be harmful to the whales. Bowhead whales do not have these bumps.

Right Whales and Bowhead Whales: Balaenidae - Diet [next]

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