|Southern Right Whale|
Each Baleen Whale has their own type of baleen and style of feeding. Bowhead Whale, who has the largest baleen, feeds yearlong in the Arctic. Meanwhile, Right Whale cruises with her mouth (which is full of finely fringed baleen plates) open. Swimming on his side, Gray Whale stirs up sediment in the shallow waters with his head. Using his tongue, Gray Whale pumps the sediment into his mouth, strains out the dirt, and eats his prey.
“Songs of the Whales” made Baleen Whales famous in the 1970s. Unlike Toothed Whales, who communicate with clicks, Baleen Whales use vocal sounds. Forming a language, these complex songs, which can last for 15 minutes, travel long distances through the ocean depths. Blue Whale uses the lowest sound on the bass register. Fin Whale also emits bass-frequency grunts, but not as low as Blue Whale. Among the Whales, Humpback Whale sings his famous songs during mating season.
Besides their songs, Baleen Whales are also known for their long migrations. Many spend summers in the food-rich polar waters, and move to warmer waters in the winter for breeding. Baleen Whales in the Southern Hemisphere migrate from the Antarctic to New Caledonia. Meanwhile, in the Northern Hemisphere, They go from Greenland to the West Indies. As They go on their epic migrations, Baleen Whales live on the energy stored in their bodies. Although Many Baleen Whales are not sociable, as a rule, They will travel in small groups to their winter and summer grounds.
Baleen Whales are great travelers. On their annual migrations, Some Whales cover a distance almost equal to half the earth’s circumference. Long journeys do not seem to faze Them. “Come see the world,” the Baleen Whales call to you.
- Families of Baleen Whales (Mysticeti):
- Rorquals (Blue, Fin, Humpback, Minke, and Sei)
- Right Whale
- Pigmy Right Whale
- Gray Whale
- Bowhead Whale
Note: Baleens are thin, long, triangular plates of keratin (same material that human hair and nails are made from). These plates grow down from the Whale’s gums, covering the upper jaw.
Conservation Note: Baleen Whales are seriously endangered, and some species may not recover. They are protected by international treaties. Moreover, many countries have restrictions on whale watching to keep the whales safe during breeding seasons.