BALEEN WHALES INTRODUCTION2014
By Amelia Meyer
The largest creature ever known to have existed is the Blue Whale. Its dimensions are impressive. But, perhaps even more notable, is the fact that this gigantic creature enjoys a diet of the smallest prey of any other cetacean and some of the smallest creatures eaten habitually by any carnivore. This prey is known as plankton or krill, and is a miniscule crustacean that is usually found in groups (or swarms) of thousands of individuals.
Unlike toothed whales, baleen whales feed by means of a baleen plate (sometimes known as whalebone). This plate is made up of bristles made of long hairs, each of which is covered by a thin layer of horn until the tip, which is exposed and separated from the other hairs to form a fringe. These plates are supported by connective tissue that is attached to each side of the upper jaw.
The basal plates each form a separate baleen plate and are formed by several rows of papillae that have fused. The epidermal layer that covers the papillae, basal plates and spaces between the plates produces the horny matter that makes up the baleen plates.