SCIENCE DETECTIVES: Do whales have teeth?

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In this episode of Science Detectives, we ask if baleen is like having a set of teeth or is it something altogether separate? And how much food does a whale need anyway?


The COSMOS Science Detectives podcast series finds and interrogates the experts to help you answer your burning questions.

Do whales have teeth?

At the beginning of 2023, scientists made a surprise finding.

The pygmy right whale (Caperea marginata), which is the smallest of the baleen whales, didn’t move far from waters in the Southern Ocean. It’s surprising because long-distance migration is a behaviour practised by most other baleen whales.

Knowledge of this enigmatic species, which is a filter-feeder using baleen to sift tasty but tiny marine life from seawater, is slowly, but surely, on the rise.

But is this baleen like having a set of teeth? Or is it something altogether separate? Do whales even have teeth to chow down on prey that is so small?

On this episode of Science Detectives, Matthew Ward Agius, a science writer for Cosmos magazine, goes diving into what baleen is, whether whales have (or need) teeth, and how much food a whale really needs with whale researchers Dr Adelaide Dedden and Dr Catherine Kemper.

More about Science Detectives

Science can answer most of life’s big and little questions – but you don’t always have scientist on hand to explain their reasoning. Now you do, with a the Cosmos Science Detectives podcast finding the experts and interrogating them to help answer your burning inquiries.

The crack Cosmos team of newsroom science journalists will leave no stone unturned. They’ll open a case file; find evidence and witnesses; and give you the detail you need to close a case of “uncertainty”.

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