Wednesday, March 2, 2011
The mouth of a newborn gray whale makes up about 90% of the length of its head and about 15% of the length of its entire body. When the calf grows up and is weaned it will get food by filtering large volumes of mud and water through baleen plates which are yellowish in color and hang from its upper jaw. The baleen acts like a large comb, catching tiny crustaceans in the hair-like fringe as water and mud are pushed out of the mouth. The young whale will use its tongue to lick the food off its baleen.
The skin of the gray whale feels like a peeled hardboiled egg, the skin easily stretches as the baby gains a layer of blubber to keep warm. The skin is dented or dimpled where hairs grow from those dents. The upper jaw has a number of regularly spaced indents containing hair follicles; each indent has a coarse white hair about a half inch to an inch long. Whales are mammals, and mammals always have some hair.
When born, gray whales are a deep gray color with white to light gray patches. Newborns have whale lice, which are small crustaceans that live in the creases of their skin and feed on dead skin (this is actually beneficial for the whale). As the calf grows, its skin will also become embedded with barnacles, these barnacles and whale lice give older gray whales their mottled appearance. The skin of some baby whales have some scars, some scarring of the skin can happen when calves rub against the sandy bottom of the lagoons or rub against the barnacles on their mothers.
The calves nurse for about 6 months, the mother provides up to 50 gallons of milk each day, her milk contains 53% fat. Calves gain 60 to 70 pounds a day; this helps them build up blubber for their trip north. Mothers stay near their young to protect, and guide, babies have much to learn and they must gain strength. They spend most their time swimming alongside mom. When they get tired, they stretch out sideways across mom’s back to rest, sometimes the mother will extend a fin to support the calf
For more information on whales and our whale watching trips visit: Oregon Whale Watching Tours
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Whales Tail (Dockside Charters)
270 Coast Guard Pl.
Depoe Bay, Oregon 97341
Toll Free: 1-800-733-8915