I was sinking my teeth into a chocolate Bilby on Easter Sunday when my thoughts went to the whales that would soon be gracing the waters of Platypus Bay off Hervey Bay very soon. They don’t have teeth to sink into anything.
The Humpback whale is a toothless whale. They are called baleen whales or mysticeti whales. They have baleen plates instead of teeth so are what we call filter feeders. Baleen, also known as "whalebone" is not really bone, but is made of keratin, the same protein substance as our own hair and nails, and the horns of cattle. The word baleen is derived from the Latin word for whale ‘baleena’.
Humpback whales are mammals just like you and me, and exhibit a number of traits common to all mammals. They are warm blooded, they breathe air and they bear live young and nurse them with milk. Unlike me though they are seasonal feeders. They eat twice a day for about 120 days. That equates roughly to 240,00kg of food.
In order to feed, a humpback whale opens its mouth and scoops food (such as krill, plankton and small fish), together with large volumes of water. It then partly shuts its mouth and presses its tongue against its upper jaw, forcing the water to pass out sideways through the baleen. This sieves out the food that it then swallows.
Can you imagine the mess if that was how I ate my Easter egg each season. Imagine what I would look like if I ate that many kilos of chocolate Bilby. I’ll stick to being a grazer while I wait for these majestic giants to return to the calm waters off Hervey Bay. Why are the waters calm? We are sheltered from the predominating south easters by Fraser Island.