What do whales eat? What you should know about your diet

Whales have a varied diet according to each species, some are carnivorous as is the case of killer whales and others eat fish and krill, then we will talk a little more about what?what do whales eat?.

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La whale feeding, It is quite simple since its menu only varies between some kinds of fish and depending on its species, most of them feed on plankton.

We can mention that there are whales that feed on marine and terrestrial mammals.

What is plankton?

Plankton is the fundamental food for many marine species, this is a group of very small particles found in the water, we can mention that this group of particles are:

  • Bacteria
  • Protists.
  • Plants (phytoplankton).
  • Animals (zooplankton).

Since whales only eat animals, we can say that they feed on zooplankton.


This type of plankton is composed of small marine animals, which feed on the same plankton. These animals are basically crustaceans, as they are:

  • Krill
  • copepods
  • Larvae of some species

At the end of their development, these animals live at the bottom of the ocean and that is why they become the perfect food for whales.

How do whales feed?

The whale feeds by means of a suction procedure, which they carry out at the moment of observing a school or a tornado of krill, for whales that have a beard this process is easier, since their beard hangs as if they were teeth and this makes they can retain what they eat.

We can compare this beard with the bristles of a toothbrush, when whales go to eat they open their mouths and water and all the food they may have enters it, to expel the water they absorb at the time of suction, you are they keep their tongue in the back of the mouth and in this way they expel the water while the mouth is closed, they can also expel it through their beards, since this makes the mouth not close completely but the food is retained in the mouth and swallow it.

At the moment of expelling all the water that they have absorbed, they proceed to swallow the food and we can say that they also swallow all kinds of chemicals, visors, plastic, at the moment of eating they can swallow everything that crosses their path, be it or not be from the sea.

What sea animals eat whales?

Thanks to the size and weight of the whales, there are not many species in the sea that eat them, the whales that are most at risk are the calves and on many occasions small whales such as killer whales, which can be observed in the Shark Characteristics which is one of their favorite foods, we can talk about this great predator that is the white shark as the only natural enemy of whales today.

However, we can also talk about another creature, which also eats whales and it is the orca. This whale uses a technique to tire its opponent that is bigger and when it is tired, the orca attacks and starts eating.

As for the land mammals that eat whales, we can mention the polar bear, which usually feeds on killer whales. The technique involves attacking several bears on a whale that is alone, because if they are in a group, the bear will not be successful.

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Whales classification

The whale is known as a species from the cetacean era and for this reason they are considered animals such as cetaceans, however the whales come from the family of the balenidae, which is known as the largest animals in the world, they are classified into three species :

  1. The baleen, which basically includes the baleen whales which are filter feeders of the baleen. It also includes right whales and bowhead whales.
  2. Fin whales, which are also the same baleen whales, but include the largest whale species in the world, which is the blue whale and also the humpback whale which feeds on krill and some kinds of fish.
  3. Gray whales, which are toothed whales like killer whales, this animal is more dolphin than cetacean, gray whales are not whales at all, it's like a mixture between species.

Feeding of whales according to their species

The whales have a balanced diet according to the species of each one of them and although they all eat practically the same, some are more carnivorous than others, below we will show what the whales eat:

baleen whales

Baleen whales have something in their favor and that is that they use various techniques to hunt, one of the most common techniques of this whale is feeding by suction, which is when these animals open their huge mouth and suck in food, water and any substance. whatever is in the ocean, then they filter the water so they can swallow the food they absorbed.

As we mentioned before, baleen whales use their baleen as teeth and in this way they do not let the food or what they swallowed come out of their mouth while it is open, this happens because they act as a filter for the water, it depends on the species of baleen whales the techniques they use to hunt.

Although one of their best known techniques is the one we are discussing, when they approach their prey with their mouths open and suck it in order to swallow their prey whole, it is also known that these whales can marry on the surface of the water and this causes the fish that swim alone in the upper part of the sea, are also devoured by this great animal.

Another technique that this whale uses is to hunt in packs, several whales come together to be able to corner the schools and with echolocation they make the fish come out of the sea and you are when the fish come out, dive and stand upright to eat the more fish.

This may seem strange since this species of whale normally walks alone and does not like to walk in groups but at the time of their mating, it also depends on the waters where you live, their way of hunting can vary if they are found in waters warm and warm.

We will mention two types of whale that are of this species.

  • The blue whale: It feeds on krill, daily this whale can consume up to three half tons of krill and they also feed on some types of small life just like the three to five centimeter krill that live in the ocean.

The blue whale also usually hunts squid, this only occurs when it is achieved with a large group of squid and then it sets out to hunt them.

It is important to know that the blue whale can eat approximately three thousand six hundred and twenty-eight kilograms of food and since it does not have teeth, it usually swallows its entire present whole and using the suction system.

  • La Humpback Whale: They have a varied diet, their diet is based on krill, although they can also eat some species of small fish or those that form schools of low quantities.

We will mention some species of fish with which this whale usually feeds, among them are:

  1. The tuna
  2. The salmon
  3. the chaplain
  4. Chickadees
  5. Haddock
  6. Mackerel

These fish live one hundred and fifty meters from the surface of the sea and this means that the whales are on the surface to eat, so that these fish do not flee when they feel that the whale is approaching, they use echolocation and also often hit the water with its fins and its tail, this action recreates a kind of bubble, which makes the school concentrate, once this is done the whale attacks and can swallow the whole school.

Unlike krill, the school they form is very large and the whales pass through the school with their mouths open, sucking up everything in their path.

What do toothed whales eat?

They are called this way because they have teeth.

It is even known that these whales can be fed by other larger whales, such as baleen whales, since they comply with certain hunting strategies, most of these whales are a mixture between dolphins and baleen whales and for that reason , is that they have teeth, this whale can feed on different marine mammals, birds, etc., depending on the hunting technique you are using.

Among these whales we can see several species that use different hunting methods including echolocation, which usually identifies the prey it is on the surface or in deep waters of up to 3000 feet, where there is no light, it is echolocation It often helps them identify prey.

This species normally walks in groups, these groups are called pods, this species of whales is normally used to eating giant octopuses, squid, walruses, sea lions, seals, even sharks, sometimes this whale is considered a apex predator like sharks and we can see this in the characteristics of sharks, where their ability to feel and detect safe prey is quite extensive.

These whales usually eat approximately 150 billion kilos of food per year, scientists do not know what their hunting method is, since they usually hunt in deep waters, this species of whale is known to be very social, they can even reach be an attraction, just like the dolphins this is due to their intelligence

In the same way we can say that they have some foods in common with baleen whales, such as fish, squid, octopus, crabs, crustaceans, benthic animals, mammals such as other whales, dolphins, Phocas, sea ​​lions, sea birds, sharks, walruses, among other marine animals.

We will mention three types of whale that are of this species.

  • Sperm Whale: This type of whale normally lives in the deep sea, the foods that most of them are:
  1. Squid
  2. Fish
  3. eels
  4. octopuses

These whales are characterized by being very aggressive and sometimes scars can even be seen and this is because when they hunt giant squid, there is a small fight between the two species and this causes the whales to suffer some damage.

This whale usually eats approximately one ton of food per day and this is something that is not yet scientifically supported, since these whales eat in the depths of the ocean and it is not possible to know how much food they can eat per day.

  • pilot whale: This morning you have several food options, your food ranges between:
  1. Fish
  2. octopuses
  3. Squid
  4. Herrings

However, she ensures that the squid is in her daily diet, that is because this is her primary source of energy, this whale can eat approximately thirty pounds a day and compared to other whales of its species and even of another type of whale this is the whale that eats the least daily, its behavior at the time of hunting is quite social, this is because it only lives in a group and uses echolocation to hypnotize its prey.

  • Orca: The killer whale is an apex predator and it hunts throughout the world ocean, being a carnivorous animal it is known as the killer whale.

Their diet is divided into several types of fish, they are divided as follows:

  • Cold-blooded prey: It is made up of several species such as:
  1. Fish: Tuna, bluefin tuna, herring, cod.
  2. Shark: Basking, whitetip, whale, white, hammerhead, mako, thresher.
  3. Stripes.
  4. squid.
  5. Turtles.
  • Warm-blooded prey: It is made up of several species such as:
  1. Whales: Sperm whale, gray, blue, humpback.
  2. Seals
  3. porpoises.
  4. Sea lions.
  5. sea ​​elephants
  6. Dolphins.
  7. Otters.
  8. Beluga.
  9. Moose.
  10. Deer.
  11. sea ​​lions
  12. Penguins.
  13. Cormorants.
  14. Seagulls

Their way of hunting is in a group and their technique with large prey is to tire them out and then attack.

As for sharks, this whale tends to attack when it is distracted or hunting.

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What do gray whales eat?

These whales usually hunt at the bottom of the sea, they eat marine worms and small crustaceans, they do this with a very particular hunting method that consists of shaking themselves on the sand at the bottom of the sea and thus raising all the particles, worms and crustaceans that are found in it and thus be able to eat.

This whale eats about two thousand six hundred pounds a day, and is considered small for its large size. In addition, it is very rare and it is not an attraction for humans since it does not like to be seen and since it feeds at the bottom of the sea, we can say that this is the whale that is hunted the least.

She eats everything she can find at the bottom of the sea, her food varies between:

  • crabs
  • marine worms
  • Plankton
  • Small fish

Echolocation and its influence on what whales eat

Echolocation is an ability that all whale species have and this works for hunting, it is based on emitting waves in the sea that fish can feel, it also allows them to emit a wave and it returns to it in the form of an echo, there he helps her locate larger mammals, it's all about toothed whales.

It also allows the whale to know if the animal is alive, if it is in danger or if it is on the move, through echolocation the whales can appreciate if the animal they are stalking is a predator, a prey or some object in the sea.

In the same way, it helps her create a kind of map, in these areas where there is no light and thus avoid hitting each other.

At the time that the whale develops echolocation, it is not necessary for them to use their eyes when migrating or when looking for prey, they simply use echolocation. We can compare this with the radar of a submarine, the waves they emit are quite wide.

Whales also use echolocation to search for whales that are in mating season and often make a different sound at sea to accomplish this goal.

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