Monthly Archives: November 2014

Whale Teeth vs. Baleen

Teeth Vs. Bristles

There are over 80 species of Cetaceans, or whales, which are divided into two groups, or suborders, based on how they eat. The two suborders of Cetaceans are Odontocetes and Mysticetes. Cetaceans that have teeth belong in a very diverse group called Odontocetes, which includes over 70 different species. Toothed whales typically have a single blowhole and use echolocation to find their food, which they have to chew up to eat.  Some examples of Odontocetes are dolphins, sperm whales, belugas, and narwhals (That’s right! The big unicorn horn on narwhals is actually a TOOTH!).

Credit: Chicago Zoological Society, Sarasota Dolphin Research Program

So if this other group of whales called Mysticetes doesn’t have teeth, then what do they have? Baleen. Mysticetes, quite literally means, “mustache whales,” named after all the bristly, hairy baleen in their mouths. Baleen is an elaborate structure made of hundreds of plates hanging from the upper jaw, while the inner surface makes a dense mat of hair acting as a strainer. This suborder includes over 10 species like the Humpback whale, Sei whale, and Blue whale (which happens to be the biggest animal that has ever lived! Even bigger than the Titanosaur!). Mysticetes have two blowholes, instead of one, and typically do not use echolocation to hunt. They eat by sucking in huge volumes of water (with prey in it), then spitting the water back out through their baleen, which traps the food on its inner surface.

For more information on Whales and their baleen visit

Marine Protected Areas

Just like national parks protect land, Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) preserve underwater ecosystems. As of now, there are more than 6,500 MPAs, protecting about 2% of our oceans. There are different types of MPAs ranging from “Strict Nature Reserve” that allows no resource removal, to “Sustainable use of Natural Resources” where limited resources can be taken. Catalina Island has a whopping nine marine protected areas, both coastal and offshore. Some of them, like the Long Point State Marine Reserve is a strict “no-take” zone. However, the Bird Rock State Marine Reserve allows the removal of certain types of pelagic finfish.

Marine protected areas can benefit both the environment and the fishing economy. Protected species can grow larger, thus reproducing with higher success rate as well as reproducing more often. This means that as fish populate, some of them will venture out of the MPA. These potentially animals can be caught by fishermen in the area, leading to higher numbers caught, and larger animals caught.


We would like to thank you for visiting our blog. Catalina Sea Camp is a hands-on marine science program with an emphasis on ocean exploration. Our classes and activities are designed to inspire students toward future success in their academic and personal pursuits. This blog is intended to provide you with up-to-date news and information about our camp programs, as well as current science and ocean happenings. This blog has been created by our staff who have at minimum a Bachelors Degree in Marine Science or related subject. We encourage you to also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Twitter, and Vine to see even more of our interesting science and ocean information. Feel free to leave comments, questions, or share our blog with others. Please visit for additional information. Happy Reading!