What Do Whales Eat?


What Do Whales Eat?

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The beautiful titans of the deep blue sea are whales. They are also the largest mammals, making them the largest animal on the planet. The smallest of these stunning species, the dwarf sperm whale, weighs only 600 pounds, while the largest, the blue whale, may weigh up to 200 tons and grow as long as 100 feet. That comes close to becoming a basketball court in length.

These mammals are warm-blooded and nurse their offspring. Whales can be found in every ocean and throughout the world.

What Do Whales Eat?

For sustenance, whales must hunt and search. There are various whale species, and each species has a particular diet preference. It is rather astounding that some of the biggest mammals on the planet consume some of the tiniest marine life. Let’s examine the whale’s preferred foods in more detail;


For baleen whales, this tiny crustacean is one of their main food sources. These tiny animals are found in enormous swarms that can weigh anywhere between 125 million and 6 billion tons. These little critters only measure 2.5 inches and weigh 0.035 ounces. In the waters surrounding Antarctica, they can be found all year long.


The sperm and pilot whales enjoy eating big squid. These squid and smaller squid species can be found in the ocean’s depths. With a 12-meter (39-foot) maximum growth, it is understandable why some whales have scars from war.


Diverse organisms that live in enormous areas of water and cannot swim against a current are collectively known as plankton. There are many different kinds, but zooplankton are the most common for whales (animal plankton). The right whale consumes a lot of these plankton.


These little crustaceans live in both freshwater and saltwater. These crustaceans can either live on the ocean floor and are referred to as benthic or they can drift in the water and are referred to as planktonic. These crustaceans are popular with sei and gray whales.


Whales and dolphins—yes, dolphins are considered toothed whales—eat a wide range of food, including salmon, halibut, hake, cod, herring, and smelt. Even giant sharks, skates, or other larger fish might not be a match for sperm whales.

Birds And Land Mammals

One of the most well-known whales is the orca because of its fearless hunting methods. They hunt birds and terrestrial mammals in addition to fish and squid in the ocean. They will affix penguins, whether they are in the water or on land, as well as seals, walruses, and sea otters. Birds lying on the water will be struck from below, stunned, and then eaten.

What Type Of Whales Do You Get?

The toothed whale and the baleen whale are the two main subspecies of whale. In addition to having different teeth, baleen whales have two blowholes while toothed whales only have one. In addition, there are 76 species of toothed whales and 14 species of baleen whales.

Toothed Whales

These whales have teeth, as their name would imply, and they typically hunt. They eat fish, seals, and enormous squid for food. The toothed whales include orcas, dolphins, porpoises, and sperm whales.

Baleen Whales

Typically, these whales are larger than their toothy counterparts. The largest toothed whale, the sperm whale, is an exception. The humpback, right, bowhead, and blue whales, to name a few, fall within this category. The top jaw of these whales is covered with fringed plates made of long, fingernail-like material. Baleen is a type of filter that is used to remove the tiny shrimp-like krill.

How Often and How Much Do Whales Eat?

Because they are so large and require so much food, whales need to eat every single day. The blue whale, a baleen whale, can consume up to 4% of their body weight each day during the summer. Each day, these whales can consume up to 8,000 lbs of krill. They may store blubber, which is a type of fat, for the winter by consuming this much krill.

The blue whale can hold 2,200 lbs of food in its stomach, according to estimates, and consumes 8,000 lbs of food per day for roughly 120 days.

During their 130 to 140-day feeding phase, grey whales consume up to 340,000 pounds of food, or 2,200 lbs on average per day. During this feeding season, a whale’s body weight increases by 16% to 30%.

Whales with teeth are hunters; they seek out and seize their prey. The toothed Sperm whale hunts for these deep-water squids by diving to depths of up to 3,280 feet. They can consume a ton of fish and squid each day.

What Types Of Food Do Whales Eat?

What Types Of Food Do Whales Eat?

Toothed whales hunt, as was already said. They may pursue squid, fish, penguins, birds, seals, or sea lions, depending on the species. Even smaller whale species may be attacked by orcas. Even crabs, starfish, fish, and other sea life are eaten by smaller whales. These whales will consume their prey entire when they have captured it.

Baleen Whales

Although baleen whales are among the largest whales, they prey on some of the tiniest marine life. The diets differ between species. For instance, right whales consume zooplankton. The krill and tiny fish that rorqual whales consume. Amphipods and marine worms are eaten by grey whales.

Do All Whales Eat Krill?

No, not every whale consumes krill. Only baleen whales consume krill, plankton, and other types of marine life. Because their food sources are so scarce, the baleens assist in filtering the food from the water before the animals ingest it.

Because they lack the ability to capture or filter the food from the water, whales without teeth will have a very tough time consuming this food source.

How Do Whales Locate Their Food?

Toothed Whales

To navigate and communicate with other whales, toothed whales and dolphins utilize echolocation to “see” the seafloor. These mammals hunt for food using echolocation as well. When they are diving deep and there is low visibility, echolocation helps them hunt more successfully.

Baleen Whales

Since baleen whales don’t use echolocation to find their prey, scientists are still not entirely sure how they accomplish it. These whales, like humpback and blue whales, are thought to communicate with other whales about potential food sources using a variety of noises. According to another notion, these whales listen for fish poop.

What Do Whales Eat In Captivity?

There are certain whales that can be kept in aquariums, but others, like the blue whale, are simply too large to be kept in captivity. The most well-liked whales maintained in captivity are belugas, dolphins, and orcas. These intelligent creatures are frequently trained to perform feats before receiving food.

Herring, salmon, mackerel, and capelin are the major fish they eat. In the wild, orcas can consume up to 500 pounds of fish, but in captivity, they only receive 140 to 240 pounds of fish per day.

What Do Whales Calves Eat?

Whales nurse their calves, however the length of the nursing phase varies by species. While toothed whales nurse for one to three years, baleen whales only do so for five to seven months. Up to 200 liters of milk can be produced by the mother each day. Their calves acquire weight extremely quickly, up to 100 kg per day, thus a calf will require at least 150 liters of milk to suckle.

The milk has a very high fat content, which in some species can reach up to 50%. The milk has a consistency that is similar to toothpaste. Additionally, it contains every vitamin the calf needs to grow.

The mother will teach the calf how to hunt for food and what things to eat before it is fully weaned. The majority of whale calves continue to live with their mother well after they have finished weaning so they can absorb all of her knowledge.

Do Whales Eat Humans?

Do Whales Eat Humans?

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Can you hug a whale?

Even though swimming with whales can be a lot of fun, it is not advised because it puts both you as a human and the whale itself in grave danger.

Can whales feel affection?

The same brain cells that humans need to experience emotions are present in different species of whales, according to New York researchers. The Independent claimed that some people have been convinced by the discovery that whales are able to experience intense love for one another.

Is it safe to swim near a whale?

Swimming with whales is secure, but pay attention to your guide’s recommendations. Keep your distance from the whales and refrain from touching them out of respect for them. The humpback whales themselves are incredibly aware of their environment and avoid anything or anyone in their way.

How sensitive is whale skin?

Whale skin is extremely sensitive to touch. Some people who perceive it to be a thick, leathery coating might be surprised to learn this. It is, however, incredibly thin. It may appear to be much harder than it actually is due to the layer of blubber under the skin.

Can touching a whale harm it?

A Whale Should Never Be Touched You could be in risk if whales thrash their tails, bite, scratch, or bite them. A particular illness known as brucellosis can potentially be spread by whales. Additionally, you might give the whale microorganisms that would make them ill.


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Sarah Green

Wildlife and Nature Fan & Author