baleen whale


baleen whale
n.
any of an order (Mysticeta) of whales with toothless jaws, baleen in the mouth, and a symmetrical skull, consisting of the gray whale, the right whales, and rorquals

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Any of about 13 species of cetaceans in the suborder Mysticeti.

They are distinguished by a specialized feeding structure, the baleen, which strains plankton and small crustaceans from the water. It consists of two horny plates attached to the roof of the mouth. Each plate (as long as 12 ft, or 3.6 m, in the right whale) is composed of parallel slats with fringes that mat together to form a sieve. Other baleen whales are the blue, fin, gray, humpback, and sei whales and the rorqual. Baleen was once used for corset stays and is still used in some industrial brushes.

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mammal
also called  toothless whale 

      any cetacean possessing unique epidermal modifications of the mouth called baleen, which is used to filter food from water.

      Baleen whales seek out concentrations of small planktonic (plankton) animals. The whales then open their mouth and take in enormous quantities of water. When the mouth is closed, they squeeze the water out through the sides, catching the tiny prey on the baleen's bristles (see also cetacean: Feeding adaptations (cetacean)).

      Baleen (whalebone) is a keratinized (keratin) structure like hair, fingernails, and hooves. The baleen apparatus hangs down in two transverse rows, one from each side of the roof of the mouth ( palate). Each row contains up to 400 elongated, triangular plates. The longest sides of the plates are smooth and situated along the outer edge of the mouth, whereas the inner sides are frayed into bristles. In the Greenland right whale (Balaena mysticetus), single plates of baleen can reach 5.2 metres (17 feet) long. Before the invention of spring steel and celluloid in the 19th century, “whalebone,” as baleen was called, was very valuable. Because it is flexible and retains shapes imposed on it with heat, baleen was used for springs and in products such as corsets, knife handles, umbrella ribs, brushes, and fans.

      Baleen whales evolved from ancestors that had teeth. Some of the early mysticetes had baleen on the palate in addition to a few functional teeth. The name of the mysticete suborder is derived from the Greek mystax, referring to the baleen as a “mustache,” and ketos (Latin cetus), meaning “whale.”

      For a taxonomy of suborder mysticeti, see cetacean: Classification and paleontology (cetacean). For information on specific baleen whales, see blue whale; fin whale; gray whale; humpback whale; right whale; rorqual; sei whale.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • baleen whale — baleen′ whale′ n. mam whalebone whale • Etymology: 1870–75 …   From formal English to slang

  • baleen whale — ► NOUN ▪ any of the kinds of whale that have plates of whalebone in the mouth for straining plankton from the water …   English terms dictionary

  • baleen whale — /bəˌlin ˈweɪl/ (say buh.leen wayl) noun one of the group of whales of the suborder Mysticeti, which have baleen, such as the blue whale, sei whale, right whale, etc. Compare toothed whale. Also, whalebone whale …   Australian English dictionary

  • baleen whale — noun whale with plates of whalebone along the upper jaw for filtering plankton from the water • Syn: ↑whalebone whale • Hypernyms: ↑whale • Hyponyms: ↑right whale, ↑bowhead, ↑bowhead whale, ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • baleen whale — noun Any of several large whales, of the suborder Mysticeti, that have plates of whalebone instead of teeth Syn: whalebone whale, great whale …   Wiktionary

  • baleen whale — noun Date: 1874 any of a suborder (Mysticeti) of usually large whales lacking teeth but having baleen which is used to filter chiefly small crustaceans (as krill) out of large quantities of seawater …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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  • baleen whale. — See whalebone whale. [1870 75] …   Useful english dictionary