Subject: Baleen Whales

Mike Williamson (
Fri, 8 Jan 1999 15:21:01 -0500 (EST)

    "" <>,
    "" <>,
    Phil Clapham <>
Subject: Re: question for report

Hi Joey:

Baleen whales are almost all very large.  They range in size from the
pygmy right whale (a species that's rarely seen, and lives in the
southern hemisphere) to the giant blue whale.  The blue whale is the
largest animal that has ever lived in our planet's history, bigger than
the biggest dinosaurs.  The largest blue whale was either 110 feet or
103 feet (there is some argument about whether the 100 foot whale was
measured properly), and would have weighed close to 200 tons.

The species of baleen whales are: gray, blue, fin, sei, minke, Bryde's,
humpback, northern right, southern right, bowhead, and pygmy right.

Baleen whales have huge mouths but small gullets, and they feed on small
things.  Some (like the right whale) feed on plankton, while others
(like the humpback) feed on small fish like herring or sand lance.  Blue
whales feed mostly on krill, which is a shrimp-like creature that's very
abundant; other baleen whales feed on this also.  Baleen whales feed by
straining their food through baleen, which is a massive sieve-like
structure hanging down from the upper jaw.

Toothed whales are mostly smaller than the baleen whales.  the
exceptions are the sperm whale (males get to maybe 70 feet), and the
bottlenose whale (to about 45 feet).  The toothed whales include all the
dolphins, porpoises, killer whales etc, as well as a jsterious group
called the beaked whales.  They all have teeth, but the number varies
widely.  They eat lots of different things, ranging from squid to many
kinds of fish.

One big difference between baleen and toothed whales is the social
system.  Baleen whales don't live in stable groups, while most toothed
whales have a more complex society that involves some sort of group
structure.  You can find baleen whales in groups, but they rarely
associate with the same individuals for very long; this is not true of
many toothed whales.

Another difference is that many toothed whales have sonar (which they
use to find food and to navigate), whereas this sort of capability
doesn't seem to exist in baleen whales.

You can find a lot more information about these animals at your local
library; any good book of whales and dolphins will give you more

Good luck.

Phil Clapham wrote:
> Hi. I am a  sixth grader and, I am doing a report on whales.
> I need to know as much information on the differences between baleen and
> toothed whales. (appearance, feeding habits, size, etc.) I would appriciate it
> if you could help me with this.
> thank you Joey


Phillip J. Clapham, Ph.D.
Northeast Fisheries Science Center
166 Water Street
Woods Hole, MA 02543

tel (508) 495-2316
fax (508) 495-2066