What Kind of Whales Eat Krill?

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Blue whales are one of a number of species that feed on krill.
Blue whales are one of a number of species that feed on krill. (Image: Blue Whale diving for krill off Orange County California image by ADMIRAL BENBOW from Fotolia.com)

Whales are large, graceful marine animals. The mammals travel through the ocean, communicating through their eerie songs and giving humans a show whenever they surface. As the largest of animals, it's somewhat amazing that some whales survive by eating microscopic krill.

Whales--The Facts

Whales are the largest animals on the planet. Although they live in the waters of the ocean, whales are warm-blooded animals who breathe air and give live birth to their young. Whales are omnivorous, meaning that they eat plants and meat, or carnivorous, meaning that they eat only meat. Whales are intelligent and normally live in large family groups.

Types

Whales are divided into two categories: toothed whales and baleen whales. Toothed whales such as sperm and beluga whales have physical teeth and hunt other fish and mammals such as seals, penguins and smaller whales. Baleen whales have a specialized straining apparatus in their mouths that allow them to capture and live off microscopic plankton, algae and krill.

Krill and Plankton

Krill and plankton are tiny creatures that make up the base of the food chain in the ocean. Krill are very small shrimp-like animals, and plankton are various invertebrates and algae species. These animals float in the water in large numbers and feed whales, fish, crustaceans, etc.

Whales and Krill

Baleen whales including blue, humpback and gray whales eat drill, plankton and small fish. Baleen is hairy fringe located inside the whale's mouth. When the whale swims through a school of fish or krill, the small animals are trapped in the whale's baleen and swallowed. Other baleen whales are rorqual and right whales.

Considerations

Intense whaling for sport, meat, research and money has led to the decimation of many whale species. Although whaling (hunting for whales) has long been against international laws, some nations continue to kill whales within their national waters. This has led to endangered status for many of the whales, international outrage among animals activist groups and campaigns to stop the practice.

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