Baleen, striping

From: Dagmar Fertl (
Date: Mon Nov 17 2003 - 10:31:19 EST

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    Howdy : Darrell Wingrove here . My question is - What do the light and dark
    lines running up-n-down a Baleine piece mean ? (Grey,Black,White,Lite Grey)
    Is it Age , Or what they have eatin in the past , or maybe moving from Baja
    to Alaska waters i.e. Water temp. I can't seem to find anybody that knows
    for sure . Thank You for your input to my question . Darrell
    Hi Darrell,

    The number of baleen plates per side of the mouth and their maximum size,
    shape, coloar, and other physical attributes are diagnostic for each
    species. Baleen plates range in color from black to yellow or white,
    depending on the species. I verified the following information in the
    _Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals_ edited by Perrin et al. and published in
    2002 by Academic Press.

    Like human fingernails (baleen is made up of keratin, the same protein we
    have in our fingernails and hair), the thickness of the baleen plates varies
    with the nutritional state of the whale. Aternating periods of summer
    gorging and winter fasting leave a regular series of visible growth zones on
    the surfaces of the plates (I believe this is the striation in color that
    you refer to in your question). These zones have been used to infer the ages
    of whales, but because of constant wear of the baleen, it is rare for more
    than five or six zones to remain in a plate. A claim that evidence of
    individual ovulations could be detected in the growth patterns of baleen
    plates was never confirmed.

    Let me know if this answers your question or not.

    Dagmar Fertl

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