Friday, 25 May 2012

How whales open their huge mouths

Researchers have discovered how very large whales co-ordinate their jaw muscles and bones to take gigantic mouthfuls of prey.

For a blue whale, the largest animal that has ever existed, each mouthful can scoop up 100 tonnes of krill-filled water in less than 10 seconds.

Scientists have now found a sensory organ in whales' jaws which they say links bones and muscles to the brain, making the vast lunging gulps possible.

They report their findings in Nature.

Writing in the journal, lead researcher Nicholas Pyenson, from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, explained that the rorqual whales he studied had "one of the most extreme feeding methods in aquatic vertebrates".

This whale-specific mouth organ seems to facilitate that.


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