Subject: Blow Holes and Baleen Whale Strandings

Kim Marshall (
Sat, 3 Jan 1998 14:18:52 -0500

Dear Rikeka, I have not found any conclusive information as to the reason
baleen whales have two blowholes and toothed whales only one.  I did learn
that the mysticetes have 2 nasal openings that are equal in size and each
on is the size of one odontocete nasal passage.  It seems that through
evolution the toothed whales underwent telescoping of their skulls for
better high frequnecy acoustic abilities where the baleen whales evolved
from the toothed whales with large, extendible jaw that were geared for
plankton feeding and low frequency acoustic abilities.  Baleen whales do
not seem to dive as deep as toothed whales so maybe this combination of
changes and evolution caused then to have a need for larger nasal passages
which split from the orginal single passage.  This is based on reading many
books over the past week but I apologize as it is not conclusive.  I will
keep your address handy in case I ever find this answer.

As for stranding information on baleen whales.  Baleen whales do not mass
strand like toothed whales because most likely because they don;t live in
social hierarchies like many toothed whales.  Strandings are reported to
local and international networks but it seems that strandings are
individual cases ie: ship strikes, predator attack, illness.  A baleen
whale  will usually sink when dead (except right whales) but if they don;t
sink right away they will be washed to the closest shoreline by winds and
currents.  Off the eastern coast of the US it varies between right whales
that are coastal and seem to get in the way of ships a lot, then humpback
whales but this year there were a few fin whales that washed ashore.  I do
not know the causes of these particular strandings.  Try contacting the New
England Aquarium (they have a webpage) as they do the necropsies for
animals of this area that strand.

Good luck, I hope we find the answers one day!

>I have been studying whales for last 3 years, but I still haven't found
>the answer on the following question: Why do baleen whales have two
>blowholes, and toothed whales just a single one? And other question is:
>Stranding of baleen whales - frequency, sites on earth, number of
>stranded whales, species stranded the most.
>                                                   Best greetings from
>Rijeka, Croatia
>My e-mail is

Kim Marshall-Tilas                              (617) 259-0423
Whale Conservation Institute                   fax: 259-0288
191 Weston Road                                 website:
Lincoln, MA  01773		Are you a member of WCI yet?