#26 A Jaw-Dropping Habit

As we've mentioned before, North Atlantic right whales aren't visiting the waters of the Southeastern United States in order to feed. Rather, coastal Florida and Georgia are the calving grounds, warm, shallow water where mothers gather to birth their calves.

Right whales feed in the waters off of New England and eastern Canada where their prey, tiny crustaceans called copepods, amass in dense columns in the water. In order to feed, these whales create a kind of vacuum with their gaping mouths, swimming through the water with their jaws dropped and their lips apart and letting a basic law of physics filter copepods from the seawater as it streams through their hundreds of baleen plates.

Photo Credit: New England Aquarium, Kelly Slivka

Since whales feed by plowing through the sea with their mouths open, it's rare to see a whale exhibiting this mouth-open behavior down here on the calving grounds, as there's really nothing for them to eat in this part of the sea. It was curious and amusing, therefore, to see a juvenile whale (above) bopping around with its mouth wide open the other day, a sight with which aerial observers in the Northeast are much more familiar.

Photo Credit: New England Aquarium, Zach Swaim

Even more amusing, though, was discovering that this particular whale is a habitual jaw-dropper. As I attempted to match the whale, found to be the 2008 calf of #3292, to its likeness in the North Atlantic Right Whale Catalog, I again saw pictures of this spunky juvenile (above) with its mouth wide open, taken in these same waters almost one year ago to the day by the Aquarium's aerial team.



1 comment:

  1. These updates are terrific. The information and photos are so well done. Makes me feel like I'm up in the air with you. Please keep them coming. I have been following RWs since 1980.