...the mouth of a baby gray whale!
has an upper and a lower jaw. It looks like a beak.
Fact: Whales need to be streamlined to move through
the water easily. Baleen whales (gray whales are baleen whales) need
large mouths to hold the large volumes of mud and water they take in
in order to catch lots of the tiny crustaceans, which they eat for food.
- No protruding
lips; instead, the mouth opening is rounded inward. No teeth,
but look closely to see edges of baleen.
Fact: When the calf grows up and is weaned it will get food by filtering
large volumes of mud and water through short yellow-white colored
baleen plates that hang from its upper jaw. Baleen acts like a large
catching the tiny crustaceans in the hair-like fringe as water and
mud are pushed out of the mouth. The young whale will use its huge
tongue to lick the food off its baleen.
Fact: The skin feels like wet rubber, which makes a good waterproof
jacket for the baby! The skin easily stretches as the baby gains
a layer of blubber under it to keep warm.
is "pickled," or dented and dimpled.
grow from those dents! The upper jaw has a number of regularly spaced
indents containing tactile hair follicles, each indent with
a half inch
to an inch long. On one calf, scientists*
counted 56 of these hairs on each side of the upper jaw. (Whales
are mammals, and mammals always have some hair.)
has white spots, and darker and lighter shades of gray.
born, gray whales are a deep slate gray color with many white to
light gray patches and flecks. Newborns
are quickly infested with whale lice, small crustaceans that live
in the creases of their skin and feed on dead skin. Many
of whales and dolphins naturally slough visible quantities of skin
that can appear light-colored, ragged, and torn. As the calf grows,
its skin will also become deeply embedded with host-specific sessile
barnacles. These barnacles and whale lice give older gray whales
their mottled appearance.
- Skin has some scars or torn-looking places.
Fact: Some scarring or skin sloughing may happen
when calves bump against the sandy bottom of the lagoons or rub against
the barnacles on
- How does
the baby nurse with a mouth like that?
whale baby does not suck, but opens its mouth as the mother pumps
Author **John Heyning describes it: "Calves
nurse just as human babies do. Nursing in the ocean poses some
challenges. It is not easy to drink under water, and cetacean
mothers often nurse
their calves while swimming. To overcome such difficulties,
cetaceans have evolved special muscles around the mammary glands
milk quickly into the calf's mouth, which has a special tongue
designed not to spill!"
L. Eberhardt and Kenneth S. Norris. "Observations of newborn Pacific
whales on Mexican calving grounds." Journal of Mammalogy (Vol. 45).
John E. Masters of the Ocean Realm: Whales, Dolphins, & Porpoises. (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1995).)