blue and humpback whale baleen lengths

From: Pieter Folkens (
Date: Mon Mar 24 2003 - 14:27:08 EST

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    Baleen length varies within a species by overall body size,
    individuals, age, and population. For example, Antarctic blue whale
    baleen is longer on average than that of the northern blue whales or
    the pygmy blue.

    If you can find a copy of the Smithsonian Reprint of "The Whalebone
    Whales of the Western North Atlantic" by Frederick W. True 1905,
    reprint 1983, ISBN 0-87474-922-0 you will find a number of photos of
    blue and humpback baleen in the Appendix. There are also maximum baleen
    length measurements embedded in the text for some specimens. I've made
    specific comments below . . .

    > I have read that the baleen in the front of the blue whale's mouth is
    > about 20 inches and in the back about 40 inches. Is this about right?

    Twenty inches at the front seems a bit long to me. The posterior-most
    is relatively short too. Look at the design of the entire baleen rack.
    It starts out relatively short and gradually lengthens to the area in
    line with the blowhole, then becomes shorter again in a short distance
    back at the gape of the mouth. This shortening at the gape makes it
    possible for the whale to look behind the baleen and into the interior
    of the mouth. It's a very interesting structure.

    The longest plate on the rack could be longer than 40 inches,
    especially in southern (Antarctic) blues. The maximum baleen length is
    32 inches for a North Atlantic blue in the overall size range of 68 to
    72 feet.

    > Also, I have been only able to find an average length of humpback
    > whale baleen to be about 30 inches. How long is it in the front and
    > how long is it in the back of the mouth?

    The anterior baleen gets down to about 5 or 6 inches inches. The
    humpback baleen plates in my office are 34 inches long, but I'm sure it
    gets longer than that. A 52-foot North Atlantic humpback has a longest
    baleen plate of 32 inches. A 48-foot had a maximum plate measuring 33

    > Also is the baleen of the gray whale much shorter than the humpback
    > and blue whales because it is a bottom eater?

    The gray whale can be a generalist feeder on a wide variety of food
    resources. I have seen them feed in the water column and skim on the
    surface, as well as feeding on the bottom. The baleen is not only
    shorter, but also much more coarse and robust. This is due to the type
    of food they eat most often off the bottom. In other words, it's not so
    much 'the bottom' as the type and toughness of prey items eaten.

    > I certainly do appreciate your time,
    > Mary Vogas
    > Environmental Educator

    I hope this helps,

    Pieter Folkens
    Alaska Whale Foundation

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