New Discovery Indicates Early Whales Vacuumed Up Their Food
(Click to enlarge) Baleen, seen in the mouth of this whale, is used for feeding in some whale species. Scientists have discovered how feeding worked in ancient whales that are related to modern-day baleen whales. (Credit: Teddy Llovet/Flickr)
At 98 feet long and 200 tons, blue whales are by far the largest animals on Earth. To get that massive, blue whales need to eat millions of calories. A day. They feed exclusively through baleen filter feeding and can gulp down nearly 8,000 pounds of krill per day. Baleen, a substance used for feeding found only in whales, is made out of keratin–the same stuff as human hair and nails.
(From Forbes / by Shaena Montanari)– These ragged plates at the opening of the mouth allow whales to filter thousands of gallons of water to strain out literally tons of krill to eat. Baleen makes a relatively recent appearance in whale evolutionary history, and now it seems it may have appeared more recently than previously thought according to a new study by paleontologist Felix Marx of Museums Victoria and Monash University and an international team of colleagues in the journal Memoirs of Museum Victoria.
Although there are 15 living species of filter feeding baleen whales, earlier in their 50-million-year evolutionary history, whales just had teeth for chomping. Baleen does not fossilize easily, so paleontologists have been left wondering when and how exactly whales made the transition from teeth to baleen. A new 25 million-year-old fossilized whale skull from Washington may hold the answer. Read the full story »