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Baleen vs. Toothed Whales in Monterey Bay

Canada - Humpback Whale Lunge Feeding

Here we take a look at Baleen vs. Toothed Whales.

Did you know that whales are classified as either Baleen or Toothed? In this video, Sea Goddess Marine Biologist Lora shares the difference between baleen and toothed whales. Learn about which whales are baleen, which are toothed, how they eat, being able to spot the difference by their blow (spout) shape, echolocation, and more! Then, come see these magnificent creatures in the wild in their natural habitat and learn more about the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Baleen Whales

Baleen whales are some of the largest animals on earth, and include both humpback whales and gray whales among others. They feed on some of the smallest animals in the ocean by straining huge volumes of ocean water through their baleen plates to capture food – tons of krill, zooplankton, crustaceans, and small fish. Baleen is long and strong made of a protein similar to human fingernails, and hang in rows of flexible plates. Baleen plates range in color from black to yellow or white, depending on the species. These baleen plates, as well as paired blowholes, distinguish them from toothed whales also known as Odontoceti.

Toothed Whales

Toothed whales are a more diverse group of whales than baleen whales, made up of about 72 different species including whales, dolphins, and porpoises. As their name implies, tooted whales have teeth which vary in size and shape per species. The number of teeth can be as little as a single pair of teeth (beaked whales) to more than 40 pairs of teeth (dolphins). Teeth, rather than baleen, allows them to eat a different diet which includes fish and squid. Another distinguishing characteristic is toothed whales have only one blowhole on top of their head and a melon – a fluid-filled structure in their forehead positioned above their beak that is believed to function for echolocation. Their ability to use echolocation means they can survive in the wild even if they are blind!