Subject: feeding

Pieter Folkens (animalbytes@earthlink.net)
Fri, 28 Feb 1997 01:39:18 -0700

>"Hi" I am a fifth grade student at Colbert Elementry.I'm writing a book
>on whales and need to know what whales eat!

Which whale? There are over 70 species in the order Cetacea (whales).

The blue whale (the largest) eats largely small crustaceans called krill.
They will also eat pelagic red crabs and a variety of other invertebrates.

The finner whales (5 species closely related to blues) and their close
cousin the humpback whale eat small schooling fish in addition to krill and
other invertebrates.

The right whales skim for non aggregating zoo plankton, particilarly copepods.

Gray whales eat dozens of different benthic copepods, crustaceans,
amphipods, and all sorts of stuff (worms, clams, crabs, shrimp) found at
the bottom of the cold shallow sea. They will also skim at the surface like
a right whale or feed in the water column like the rorquals (finners).

All those above are baleen whales (mysticetes) which filter their food as
skimmers or gulpers. Toothed whales are, by comparison, single prey item
feeders (one item at a time).

The largest toothed whale (odontocetes) is the sperm whale which eats large
cephalopods (squid).

The couple dozen or so beaked whales are squid eaters.

The many dolphin species eat a variey of fish and squid.

Killer whales (a type of dolphin also called orcas) eat most anything they
want including other marine mammals all the way up to the great blue whale.
Orcas have also been known to eat birds and moose.

A comprehensive list of all the types of food of all the species of whales
would be several hundred species long. The list for the gray whale alone is
over a hundred. Every type of prey items found in the ocean provide food
for some type of whale -- invertebrates living anywhere in the water column
and at the bottom of the sea, simple celled zoo plankton, soft-bodied
creatures like cephalopods, simple vertebrates, bony fish, marine mammals
-- the whole gambut.

Don't be surprised about that. Think of all the types of food you eat --
underground vegetables (potatoes, carrots), leafy vegetables, stalked
vegetables (beans), fruits from bushes or trees, nuts, fish, chicken, milk,
beef and on it goes. And each one of those groups can be identified more
precisely (for example:)

fruits
   citrus fruits
       oranges
       grapefruit
       lemons

I'd bet that if you put your mind to it you'd find that you have eaten a
hundred different foods not even counting the processed foods (BigMacs).

Cheers,

Pieter Folkens

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