Blue Whale Teeth: Marine Mammal Mouth Facts All Kids Should Know

Adekunle Olanrewaju Jason
Oct 24, 2023 By Adekunle Olanrewaju Jason
Originally Published on Nov 15, 2021
A Baby Humpback Whale diving in the ocean.

These magnificent and enormous mammals are some of the biggest creatures to ever exist.

Though these species weigh 200,000 lb (90718.4 kg) and are more than 100 ft (30.4 m) in length, they have no teeth. They have something called baleen or whalebone.

The Baleen whale species capture their prey using this giant sieve in their mouth. Teeth baleen helps whales in swallowing large amounts of food while filtering out seawater at the same time.

There used to be a time when whale species had teeth. Scientists have found that the baleen whales' ancestors first had teeth and used to use these teeth to chew their food. The first common ancestor of baleen whales species, the origin of the single gene known as the enamelysin gene was inactivated in these whales.

This gene is crucial for the formation of the enamel of all mammals. In fact, this gene is missing in every baleen whale out there. More research specifies that the baleen whale’s ancestors didn’t have this gene to enable teeth 25 million years ago either. Hence, the loss of this gene must have occurred before then.

Let’s keep reading to know about baleen whales in detail of blue whale teeth size, blue whale teeth number, blue whale teeth name, and even blue whale teeth weight! Afterward, do read about African bullfrog teeth and hamster teeth.

Do blue whales have teeth?

Two kinds of whales exist, the baleen whales and the toothed whales. The toothed whales have teeth and baleen whales don't have teeth.

The latter whales have something called the baleen plates. These plates are seen to hang from the inside the top of a whale’s mouth.

These plates inside the whale's mouth look like giant combs which form a filter through which water can easily flow.

When a baleen whale wants to eat, it first takes big gulps of water, it then partially shuts its mouth and presses its tongue against its upper jaw, forcing water to pass through the baleen. The plates of a baleen whale then act as a filter, sifting out plankton and animals such as krill.

The difference in blue whales from toothed whales is also their blowholes. The baleen whales all have two blowholes whereas toothed whales only have one.

A blowhole is what you see on the top of a whale’s head. You can see them as nostrils for whales.

The blowholes are kept closed when a humpback whale is seen underwater. Once the whale reaches the surface of the water, these holes open and the humpback takes a breath. It then proceeds to close its blowhole and head back under the surface.

It depends on the type of whale and the time they take to surface and breathe. Whales are also known to use echolocation to search and travel for food like squid.

The meaning of this term is exactly what it sounds like, using echo in order to locate things. Toothed whales are known to make sounds while traveling through water.

This helps a whale to tell the shape, distance, size, and speed of an object. Echolocation is said to be quite important for whales as they help them navigate through the deep, dark parts of the ocean. These whales also used echolocation to locate other whales, including their young ones.

What is the purpose of their teeth?

These animals belong to the cetacean family, which includes porpoises and dolphins.  With this, the mammal is divided into two types of whales, baleen whales, and toothed whales. Like we already discussed earlier, baleen whales don’t have any teeth while toothed whales do have teeth.

There are approximately 65 different species of whales that have teeth. They use it for consuming and attacking their prey. While only some whales have teeth, their family members of animals, dolphins, and porpoises all have teeth.

Toothed whales are also smaller than baleen whales. The largest toothed whale in the world is a sperm whale. These whales use their teeth in different ways.

While some whale species swallow their prey fully, others chew their food. During the mating season, some whales are seen to demonstrate their dominance using their teeth.

The number of teeth present in these whales varies. Some may only have two to three teeth while others have 240 teeth or more. Some whales may also only have teeth in their lower jaw while others have them in both their upper jaw and lower jaw.

For hunting, toothed whales make vocal sounds and use visual cues to hunt. They sometimes work together in order to surround a group of fish or another tactic they use is surrounding their prey in an area where they can’t escape.

Sperm whales have been observed to dive in as deep as 3,000 ft (914.4 m) to capture their prey. So we can see that toothed whales have a lot of advantages for capturing their daily meals using their teeth.

However, how do baleen whales manage? These whales have something called special baleen plates that have bristles resembling teeth that help them to eat.

How many teeth do blue whales have?

According to scientists, the bodies of a baleen whale are long and streamlined. Its head makes up for a fourth of its body length. The region of the head is also seen to be U-shaped and broad. They have around 270 to 395 baleen plates present on either side of their jaws.

The plates of baleen whales resemble long, thin teeth that are close together. They are made of keratin, which is what makes up human hair and fingernails.

They are seen to catch small swimming creatures that the baleen blue whale then consumes. Blue whales have white patches on their bodies and are blue-gray in hue. The undersides of the flippers are lighter and occasionally white, but the underside of the tail is dark.

Diatoms attach themselves to the undersides of blue whales in Antarctica, the North Pacific, and the North Atlantic. The whales' bellies have a yellowish-green color due to these parasites.

A blue whale's normal length is 75-80 ft (22.8-24.3 m), and these massive marine mammals can weigh up to 200,000 lb (90718.4 kg). Whales in the southern hemisphere are larger than those in the northern hemisphere.

The length of one whale caught in the southern hemisphere was 110 ft (33.5 m). Females of the same age are typically larger than male whales. On the back of the blue whale is a little triangular-shaped dorsal fin.

The height of this fin is only one foot. The dorsal fin can vary greatly in shape and size according to the whale.

The tail of the whale is large and triangular in shape, while the flippers are short. Blue whales normally travel in pairs or small groups of two to four.

Up to 60 whales at a time have been seen swimming together off the coast of California. These whales can swim at speeds of up to 30 mph (48.2 kph) during a rapid burst or sprint.

Blue whales may dive to depths of up to 1,640 ft (499.8 m), however, they typically feed at depths of less than 330 ft (100.5 m). The dive of a blue whale usually lasts 10 to 20 minutes.

What are baleens?

There are 13 different species of baleen whales, including the bowhead, humpback, right, blue, minke, and gray whales. Baleen whales are normally larger than toothed whales with the exception of the sperm whale, which is enormous and the largest toothed whale in existence. There are a total of 70 species of toothed whales.

Every year, a large number of baleen whales move considerable distances between a cold-water feeding site and warm water breeding locations. Baleen whale species have baleen instead of teeth, which they utilize to gather krill, plankton, and small fish from the sea.

The whales' favorite prey is filtered, sifted, or trapped inside their mouths by these bristly baleen plates.

A whale's baleen plates are made of keratin, the same protein that makes up our fingernails and hair. The bowhead whale's baleen can grow to be 13.2 ft (4 m) long, which is the longest baleen known across all whale species.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for blue whale teeth then why not take a look at herbivore teeth, or what is a baby hedgehog called.

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Written by Adekunle Olanrewaju Jason

Bachelor of Science specializing in Mass Communication.

Adekunle Olanrewaju Jason picture

Adekunle Olanrewaju JasonBachelor of Science specializing in Mass Communication.

With over 3+ years of professional experience, Olanrewaju is a certified SEO Specialist and Content Writer. He holds a BSc in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos. Throughout his dynamic career, Olanrewaju has successfully taken on various roles with startups and established organizations. He has served as a Technical Writer, Blogger, SEO Specialist, Social Media Manager, and Digital Marketing Manager. Known for his hardworking nature and insightful approach, Olanrewaju is dedicated to continuous learning and improvement.
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