What is a whale baleen and why is its skeleton at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science?

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Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
The skeleton of a fin whale hangs in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science’s main hall. March 1, 2023.

There’s a skeleton that’s longer than a school bus hanging in the lobby of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Obviously, these aren’t human bones. John Demboski, the museum’s curator of vertebrate zoology, said many people think it’s a dinosaur. But that’s incorrect, too.

“It’s actually the world’s second-largest living mammal,” Demboski said.

That mammal? A fin whale. If you go up to the museum’s third-floor landing, you get an overhead view down its whole spine. And while its entire skeleton is on display for the public, another part of the whale is hidden in the museum’s archives three floors underground.

Down there lives a long, thick strip of what looks like dense broom bristles. It’s called baleen – pronounced buh-LEEN – and Demboski explained that they are essentially teeth that help the whale eat.

Read the full story on Denverite