Stretchy nerves help some big whales open wide | Science News


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Stretchy nerves help some big whales open wide

stretchy nerves in a whale

WIDE OPEN  Fin whales and others like them have stretchy nerves (yellow) in their mouths and tongues that help the whales open their mouths wide to swallow a lot of prey.

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Stretchy nerves help some whales stuff their mouths with fish.

Rorqual whales, which include the behemoth blue whale and the fin whale, have nerves in their tongues and mouths that stretch and recoil like rubber bands, researchers report May 4 in Current Biology. These nerves stretch to more than double their original length and appear to unfold and refold as the whales open and close their mouths.

Nerves aren't known for their flexibility. Usually any bend or pull can damage them. Such stretchy nerves in these whales, however, may have helped some of them become the marine giants we see today, the scientists suggest.

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