What is baleen?

Baleen is made out of keratin, the same protein that makes up our fingernails and hair. A baleen whale, such as the humpback whale below, has about 600 baleen plates in its upper jaw, which act like a strainer as it feeds. Like humans, whales cannot drink saltwater. Hairs on the baleen plates catch the fish or plankton, while the saltwater washes through and goes back into the ocean. Some whales eat about one ton (2,000 lbs.) of fish each day. That’s the weight of a large car! You can tell if you see a baleen whale by their blowholes. All baleen whales have two blowholes visible on the top of their heads.

More facts about whales and dolphins.

Baleen in mouth of humpback whale