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wppThe Evolutionary Trick that Lets Bowhead Whales Grow So Big

By Jason G. Goldman – Hakai Magazine – July 25, 2016
A bowhead whale is made for eating. The creature’s eponymous, scoop-shaped head takes up an entire third of its body. Lining its upper jaw are 640 baleen plates: thin, flexible pieces of keratin with a bristly fringe it uses to sieve food from the sea. These plates, which can grow to nearly three meters long, are huge even for a leviathan. But to grow such massive bodies, bowhead whales must circumvent an evolutionary catch-22. Like other baleen whales, bowheads feed by filtering seawater through their baleen plates, trapping about two tonnes of zooplankton each day. But when they’re young, bowhead whale baleen is too small to filter more than a fraction of the food the animals require. To grow, the whales need massive amounts of food, but to filter enough zooplankton, they need to be large. For full article, click here.

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