The carcass of a 32-foot male sperm whale that washed up on Cape Lookout NC in 2005, a relative of Moby-Dick. Note the teeth in the lower jaw; they’re for grabbing and ripping, the marine biologist docent at the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort explained. These whales don’t chew their prey; they swallow them whole. This particular whale had the beaks of 18 or so squid in its belly, along with an octopus or two. There are vegetarian whales, blues and humpbacks, that have instead of teeth baleen plates, plastic-like sheets with comb-like teeth that filter out small crustaceans and plankton from mouthfuls of sea water.
Also on display, suitable for touching, was this whale’s heart, the size of a very large pumpkin and the consistency of hardish clay or soft plastic. After we’d touched it, another docent, a young woman, said “now you’ve played with a whale’s heartstrings.”