Baleen plate pictured here with baleen bristles attached. Photo credit: Roger Tidman/www.flpa-images.co.uk. Arkive.

Baleen plate pictured here with baleen bristles attached. Photo credit: Roger Tidman/www.flpa-images.co.uk. Arkive.

Close up view on the baleen bristles, showing them tapering from the plate. They are extremely strong and durable. Photo source: Wikipedia

Close up view on the baleen bristles, showing them tapering from the plate. They are extremely strong and durable. Photo source: Wikipedia

Inside view of humpback whale's mouth. Note the hairy looking baleen on either side of the mouth. The huge pink tongue is in the middle of the baleen plates.  Photo credit: John Tunney, Shutterstock

Inside view of humpback whale’s mouth. Note the hairy looking baleen on either side of the mouth. The huge pink tongue is in the middle of the baleen plates. Photo credit: John Tunney, Shutterstock

El Moustachio! There is the man himself with his lovely moustache up close and personal smile emoticon. Photo source: http://orleansconservationtrust.org/symbiotic-relationship-between-humpback-whales-and-marine-birds-presentation-recap/

El Moustachio! There is the man himself with his lovely moustache up close and personal smile emoticon. Photo source: http://orleansconservationtrust.org/symbiotic-relationship-between-humpback-whales-and-marine-birds-presentation-recap/

Is it a brush? Is it a broom? No, it’s baleen!

It is found inside the mouths of baleen whales which are known as Mysticetes or the ‘Moustached whales’. This bristly mouthpiece is actually comprised of keratin which also makes our hair and nails. The baleen whales are among some of the largest whales in the world, including the blue whale and the humpback whale among others. Despite their enormous size, these giants feed on some of the smallest creatures in the ocean, krill and small fish. They swallow vast quantities of water and expel the water through the sieve-like krill plates. The little creatures get trapped in the baleen and the whale licks along the plates to flush the creatures into its mouth.

Suzanne Burns 2015.

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