Feed Like a Whale

In this activity you will explore which feeding style is most effective at gathering zooplankton and which is most effective for gathering fish and squid. 

Feed Like a Whale

Whales can be classified into 2 groups (sub-orders) based on their different mouth and skull structures that allow them to feed on different types and quantities of food. In this activity you will explore which feeding style is most effective at gathering zooplankton (seasoning) and which is most effective for gathering fish and squid (carrot or apple chunks).

ACTIVITY

Materials

  • Plastic, container (shoebox sized ) Plastic comb Seasoning (oregano or other leafy dry spices work best) Tweezers or small tongs Carrot or apple chunks Clock or stopwatch

Objective

  • Simulate different feeding methods of whales in order to understand the differences in feeding methods between toothed and baleen whales.

Guiding Questions

  • How are the feeding habits of toothed whales and baleen whales different?
  • What special adaptations do toothed and baleen whales have to get enough food in their aquatic environment?

Procedure​

  1. Fill the plastic container approximately halfway with water.
  2. Sprinkle some of the seasoning onto the water and place the carrot or apple chunks into the water.
  3. Using the tweezers or tongs pick up as many pieces of seasoning as possible in 15 seconds. Record the number of pieces of seasoning in the table. Comment on the ease or difficulty in picking up this type of food.
  4. Using the tweezers or tongs pick up as many pieces of carrot or apple as possible in 15 seconds. Record the number of pieces of carrot or apple in the table. Comment on the ease or difficulty in picking up this type of food.
  5. Holding the comb vertically sweep it across the surface of the water and pick up as many pieces of seasoning as possible. Record the number of pieces of seasoning in the table. Comment on the ease or difficulty in picking up this type of food.
  6. Holding the comb vertically sweep it across the surface of the water and pick up as many chunks of carrot or apple as possible. Record the number of chunks in the table. Comment on the ease or difficulty in picking up this type of food.

Think About It

  • What does the comb represent?
  • What do tweezers (or tongs) represent?
  • What does the seasoning represent?
  • What does the carrot or apple chunks represent?
  • Based on the data you wrote in the table above, do you think that a toothed whale eats zooplankton? Explain your reasoning.
  • Based on the data you wrote in the table to below or to the right (depending on your device), what do you think a baleen whale eats?
  • Cetaceans swallow their food without chewing it.
  • This website explains the process of digestion without chewing, and has many photos. Please note, there are photos of internal organs.