Do whales have teeth?

Cosmos Magazine


Cosmos is a quarterly science magazine. We aim to inspire curiosity in ‘The Science of Everything’ and make the world of science accessible to everyone.

By Cosmos

At the beginning of 2023, scientists made a surprise finding.

The pygmy right whale (Caperea marginata), which is the smallest of the baleen whales, didn’t move far from waters in the Southern Ocean. It’s surprising because long-distance migration is a behaviour practised by most other baleen whales.

Knowledge of this enigmatic species, which is a filter-feeder using baleen to sift tasty but tiny marine life from seawater, is slowly, but surely, on the rise.

But is this baleen like having a set of teeth? Or is it something altogether separate? Do whales even have teeth to chow down on prey that is so small?

On the latest episode of Science Detectives, a new podcast series from Cosmos, Matthew Ward Agius goes diving into what baleen is, whether whales have (or need) teeth, and how much food a whale really needs with whale researchers Dr Adelaide Dedden and Dr Catherine Kemper.

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