Do Blue Whales Have Teeth: Detailed Facts Around It


It won’t be wrong to call blue whales the goliaths of the ocean but the gentle ones. They are huge and powerful but do not ever question their demeanor- they are docile. 

Blue whales come under the category of baleen whales. They do not possess any teeth. Rather, their upper jaw is adorned with hundreds of baleen plates.

Do Blue Whales Have Teeth
Image Credit: Blue whale baleen by Nitahieb (CC0 1.0) from Wikimedia

If you have ever noticed a blue whale with an open mouth, you would see the baleen plates as a finely bristled comb that sieve to filter millions of liters of water to eat tons of plankton and schools of small fish. 

Blue whales can reach lengths of over 100 feet and weights of over 100 tons. However, their lack of teeth may make us wonder how such a massive creature could have no teeth but keratin-based hanging plates. But this is how nature works. 

Let’s take a closer look at blue whale teeth and the facts surrounding them. This is a non-scientific article with no intention of proving any technical facts. We ask that readers read our article with an open mind.

Do all whales have teeth?

Whales have existed on earth for over 50 million years and have undergone multiple evolutions and adaptations. And it is as a result of these adaptations we now see modern-day whales.

All whales do not have teeth. There are over 80 species of whales that are classified into two groups: baleen and toothed. Baleen whales filter their food using baleen plates instead of teeth. Toothed whales, on the other hand, use their keen teeth to capture their prey. Toothed whales gulp their food intact rather than chewing it with their teeth.

There are 14-15 whale species under the baleen category. Some of their names are given below:

  • Blue whale
  • Humpback whale
  • Fin whale
  • Sei whale
  • Bryde’s whale
  • Gray whale
  • Bowhead whale
  • North Atlantic Right whale
  • North Pacific Right whale

There are more whales in the toothed category. This group includes almost 70 different whale species. Here are some of their names:

  • Sperm whale
  • Belugas
  • Narwhal
  • Dolphins
  • Porpoises
  • Orcas

How many teeth do whales possess?

Toothed whales possess teeth; hence they are called toothed whales. So how many teeth do these whales have? Is there any difference in the number, or do all of them possess the same number of teeth?

How many teeth a whale would possess depends on its species. In addition, not all whales have the same number of teeth. Some may have only teeth, while some others may possess over 100. 

Here, we have presented a list of whales and the number of teeth they possess in a tabular form.

Whale NameNo. of Teeth
Sperm whale 18 to 26 teeth on both sides of its lower jaw
Dolphin72-104
Orca40-56
Narwhal1
Beaked whale 2

Why do blue whales not have teeth?

Baleen whales possess hundreds of baleen plates instead of teeth. And there is a specific reason for possessing baleen plates. So, let’s explore why blue whales do not have teeth.

One of the main reasons that blue whales do not possess teeth is that they don’t eat large prey that requires teeth to grasp. Instead, these whales have evolved so that they can grab prey with their baleen plates and swallow it whole.

Baleen whales tend to be larger than toothed whales, and blue whales are the largest of all mammals on the earth. As a result, they require more food to survive, so they scavenge massive amounts of plankton and small fish at once. And it’s their baleen plates that help them with their hunting.

What do blue whales have as the replacement of teeth?

So if blue whales do not possess teeth, what do they possess instead? Let’s explore.

Blue whales are baleen whales and contain baleen plates instead of teeth. Unlike teeth, baleens are made of keratin and help baleen whales filter in tons of small prey at once. 

What are baleen plates?

Image Credit: Baleen Plate of Bryde’s Whale by SSR2000 (CC BY-SA 3.0) from Wikimedia

Baleen whales, larger in size, possess baleen plates and not teeth. But what are these baleen plates? Let’s find out.

Baleen plates are fringed brush-like structures used by baleen whales to filter food from ocean water. These plates, made of keratin, grow in the upper jaws of baleen whales and are strong bristles. Whales that possess these are called filter feeders and primarily depend on plankton, krill, and schools of small fish as their primary food source. 

Baleen whales are a group of 14-15 whale species found worldwide, with the blue whale being the largest. Baleen-plate-bearing whales are known as Mysticetes.

Why do blue whales have baleens?

The baleen plates look like the bristles of a comb that hangs from the upper jaw of baleen whales. So now, the question is, why do blue whales have baleens?

The baleen plates in blue whales help them gulp in tons of water and filter their food from it. Blue whales, while pursuing food, swim with their mouth wide open. As a result, they can capture gallons of water containing tons of plankton and shool of fish. They press their mouths on the baleen bristles to throw the saltwater and filter into the animals. 

Baleen whales’ hunting tendency is to grab their prey; the baleen plates are highly crucial for them. Scientists call baleen whales filter feeders. And since these whales do not have teeth to chew their prey, the baleen plates assist them in filtering a large amount of food inside and swallowing them as a whole. 

How many baleen plates do blue whales possess?

Have you ever wondered how many baleen plates or tiny brush-like structures blue whales possess? If yes, then here is the answer for you.

According to experts, a blue whale possesses around 350 baleen plates. These plates hang down vertically from the upper jaw of the mammal.

Do blue whales ever have teeth?

Image Credit: Blue-Whale-0009 by Tim Wilson (CC BY 2.0) from Wikimedia

We all are well aware that blue whales are baleen whales. This is because they have baleen plates in replacement of teeth. But did these mammals ever possess teeth at any time in their evolution?

According to experts, Baleen whales used to have teeth and looked very different than they do now. It was discovered that they possessed a formidable set of teeth once, probably 25 million years ago. Nevertheless, how these magnificent creatures shed their teeth and modified them with baleen plates remains a mystery.

According to scientists, ancient whales used their teeth to chew their prey. However, as the ocean and its creatures evolved, the whales adapted, and a new feeding strategy called filter feeding emerged to adjust to the changes. The baleens were born as a result of this.

Summary

So, blue whales do not possess any teeth. Rather than teeth, these whales have baleen plates, which they utilize to filter their food. That being said, there once upon a time, these giants used to have teeth. But with the change in the ocean ecosystem, they evolved and began to grow baleen plates to survive and flourish underwater.

Atrayee

I am Atrayee, I have extreme passion for the Animal Kingdom and I have written a large number of articles for animal behaviors. I am an Animal Lover by nature and own two Cats.
Exploring new things through learning and unlearning is something that intrigues me a lot. I spend my free time with my husband and two cats. I must say I get to learn a lot of wise things from them! You can catch me on LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/atrayee-samaddar-06886567/

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