Balaena mysticetus is a baleen whale, which means that they filter water through baleen plates, feeding on the organisms caught in the plates and pushing the rest of the water out. Balaena mysticetus can sometimes feed opportunistically during the spring migration, but mostly feed during the winter months on their feeding grounds. They eat crustacean zooplankton, epibenthic organisms, and some benthic organisms. Crustacean zooplankton, such as copepods, are not important food sources for young B. mysticetus, but increase in importance with age (Shelden and Rugh 1995). Copepods are small crustaceans, which a bowhead whale can filter at approximately 50,000 per minute (Stover 2001). Balaena mysticetus sometimes form groups of up to fourteen individuals, in which they make a V-shape formation. In this formation they travel at the same speed and filter feed together (Nowak 1999).
Foods commonly eaten include: euphausiids, copepods, mysids, gammarid amphipods, other benthic organisms
Animal Foods: aquatic crustaceans; zooplankton
Foraging Behavior: filter-feeding
Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats non-insect arthropods); planktivore
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