What do blue whales eat?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “What do blue whales eat?” We will also discuss what baby whales eats, how the blue whales hunt for food, and their feeding habits.

What do blue whales eat?

Blue whales mostly eat krills. Krills are the small, shrimp-like crustaceans found throughout the oceans. Blue whales may consume up to 6 tonnes (12000 pounds) of krill every day which is around 4% of their entire body weight. 

Most krill species are barely more than an inch long, although a handful can reach 3 or 4 inches. They play an essential role near the bottom of many marine food systems, consuming small algae and plankton in the water and being preyed on by larger species such as whales and finfish.

The blue whale’s diet is almost completely made up of krill, but they also consume a small percentage of copepods, zooplanktons, small crustaceans, and other small fishes found in the ocean. The female blue whales are comparatively larger than the males, so they require a heavier diet than the males.

What do baby blue whales eat?

A newborn blue whale consumes milk throughout its first 6 – 18 months of life and can ingest up to 150 gallons of milk each day during that time. This feeding will continue until the young whale can forage for food on its own and survive. Only when they are capable of hunting their food, do they go after other fish in the ocean.

How do the blue whales hunt for food?

Blue whales search and hunt for food by keeping their mouths open, taking in all the krills and small crustaceans,  then closing their mouths while expanding their throat pleats. Once closed, blue whales use their tongue to force the trapped water out of their mouth and their baleen plates to keep the krill inside.

Doing this the blue whales consume more food in one swallow than any other mammal on the planet. The great majority of a blue whale’s diet consists of krill, followed by small portions of zooplanktons and small crustaceans.

Blue whales are filter feeders. Its throat possesses an expanded, pleated structure that allows it to swallow a volume of water and prey bigger than the animal’s own body weight. Water is pushed out of the mouth by its huge tongue through strainer-like baleen plates that hang down from the upper jaw as it consumes food.

An average adult blue whale has between 270 and 400 baleen plates located around its mouth. These are supplemented by different throat pleats (or grooves) that allow the mouth to inflate outward like a balloon while absorbing large amounts of food.

What are the feeding habits of blue whales?

The feeding habit of blue whales largely depends on finding different isolated areas of food in the sea. Every day, the blue whale goes on multiple foraging trips, diving to depths of a thousand feet or more in search of food. 

When the whale gets close to a large, concentrated group or population of prey(mostly krills and zooplanktons), it starts to speed up to 20 mph and lunge forward. The expanding throat pleats allow it to suck in a massive amount of water, maybe up to 200 tons, in a single swallow. The baleen plates will then push the water back into the ocean with the help of the tongue, while the prey remains safely within its mouth.

Blue whales spend most of the summer days on arctic seas in search of food. As winter comes, they embark on a long journey to tropical seas looking for more food. Their feeding rate is thought to be higher in the summer than in the winter, as they do the majority of their breeding in summer. 

However, unlike other species, the blue whale’s migratory movements are not fixed. Some blue whales migrate only partially, while others spend the entire year in the same location. Their migration patterns appear to be mostly determined by food availability.

The blue whales are also believed to make a daily vertical movement from shallow to deep waters and return as their prey moves up and down the water column. This suggests that they are continually shifting positions throughout the 24 hours.

Conclusion 

In this brief guide, we have answered the query, “What do blue whales eat?” We have also discussed what baby whales eat, how the blue whales hunt for food, and their feeding habits.

Citations 

https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/quick-questions/what-do-blue-whales-eat.html

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