Can a Whale Swallow You Whole?

Whales, in general, are not capable of swallowing a human being and therefore will not eat you. However, there is a species of whales that does pose a legitimate challenge to that general theory: sperm whales.

That title may sound a bit shocking, and it’s one of those questions that gives people shudders, especially if they love spending time at the beach. Getting eaten or swallowed by an aquatic animal is far worse than it actually sounds. Think about the food that you eat every day and think about your normal process of eating: first, we put the food in our mouth, chew it (although some people may choose to skip this part if the food is particularly delicious), and then swallow it. What happens next is less of our voluntary concern; our body is able to take care of the food itself once we swallow it down and finish our meal.

Now, imagine what it would feel like if that morsel of food that we’re talking about is actually a human being, and the hungry diner is… well, a whale.

Can a Whale Swallow You?

One-word answer: NO.

More honest answer: It is very, very unlikely that a whale, or any other giant aquatic animal, will be interested in eating you. Don’t just take my word for it; there are some good reasons behind their disinterest.

First off, most whales are not equipped with the type of teeth that can tear through flesh and bone. This is not just true of whales; any aquatic animal would require strong, specially designed teeth to break down considerably large mammals (like humans) into pieces small enough to swallow and digest. In fact, there are certain species of whales that don’t even have teeth. For example, all the species of baleen whale are known as ‘teeth-deprived.’ In order to consume their food (which does not consist of humans), they have baleen plates that have evolved in such a way that they are able to capture prey like small fish, squid, octopus and krill. Furthermore, the esophagus of whales is not particularly large (only a few inches wide), which means that a healthy human adult definitely can’t fit into that tiny space.

The Sperm Whale Exception

Whales, in general, are not capable of swallowing a human being and therefore will not eat you. However, there is a species of whales that does pose a legitimate challenge to that general theory: sperm whales.

A sperm whale does have a large esophagus that is especially designed to swallow large mammals, such as giant squids and other large creatures of the deep, so you might think of sperm whales as dangerous. Obviously, they are massive creatures, so there is an inherent level of danger, but fear not! Sperm whales are harmless to humans for an entirely different reason.

Whale

Credits:Catmando/Shutterstock

Sperm whales generally hunt at roughly half a mile below the surface of the ocean. To be more precise, a sperm whale generally hunts 3000 feet down. This depth is far deeper than any human can swim; the pressure alone would be unbearable. In fact, sperm whales hunt so deep in the sea that scientists are still unsure of how they hunt for prey. In other words, you have no reason to be scared.

Another species of whale that can potentially eat humans is the killer whale. These ferocious predators are equipped with strong, sharp teeth to do the tearing, but killer whales usually don’t show any desire to kill humans, just to eat them as dinner if they get too close. While there have been some killer whale attacks on humans in the ocean, these usually occur when the whale feels threatened by the presence of an intruder, or for some other reason related to ensuring its own safety.

 

Whale

Credits: Shane Gross/Shutterstock

What we’re trying to say is that you can swim in an ocean where whales are known to be. The other factors in whether or not you become dinner for some creature of the deep are less predictable, but rest assured, you won’t get swallowed by a whale anytime soon.

References

  1. Smithsonian.com
  2. Whale Facts Marine Mammal Facts & Information
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About the Author:

Ashish is a Science graduate (Bachelor of Science) from Punjabi University (India). He spends a lot of time watching movies, and an awful lot more time discussing them. He likes Harry Potter and the Avengers, and obsesses over how thoroughly Science dictates every aspect of life… in this universe, at least.

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