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Baleen whale

Scientifically known as the Mysticeti, baleen whale, also called whalebone whale or great whale, is a suborder of the whale order. This suborder contains four families and twelve species. (A list of species can be found at the "whale" article.) Its scientific name derives from the Greek word mystax, which means "moustache."

Baleen whales are larger than toothed whales[?], and the females are larger. They lack echolocation capabilities.


None of them has teeth. Instead, they have baleen, using which they engulf sea water containing crustaceans, then close their mouths and create internal pressure by raising their tongues toward the palates to push the water out, trapping small ocean animals, especially krills and planktons, inside.

This is called filter feeding[?], and is also used by flamingos. Even though individually the crustaceans are miniscule, the baleen whales take in an enormous volume of water containing them daily to maintain their survival.

There are several types of food-finding methods:

  • Gulpers (swallowers): swim and open mouths alternatively. e.g., rorquals, blue whales, pygmy blue whales, fin whales, Bryde's whales, humpback whales, and Minke whales.
  • Skimmers: predominantly have their mouths open during swimming. e.g., right whales, pygmy right whales, and bowhead whales
  • Benthic feeders: gray whales
  • Combined: Sei whales are both swallowers and skimmers


In the 19th and early 20th centuries, baleen whales were hunted for their oil and baleen. Their oil can be made into margarine and cooking oils. The function of baleen can be found in the "baleen" article.

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