Humpback whales are acrobatic and fascinating animals. It is a sight to behold as they breach over the surface of the ocean.
Their feeding choice is opportunistic; it includes small fishes (salmon, mackerel), crustaceans (crabs, octopus), and krill (copepods).
But can humpback whales eat humans?
The short answer is no. They have no teeth to chew or swallow and also have a narrow throat which doesn’t have much extensibility to gobble down a human body.
The mouth of a humpback whale reaches about 10 feet. On the other hand, its throat can only stretch to 15 inches in diameter to the maximum.
It can effortlessly fit a human inside its huge mouth but cannot swallow it.
Humpback whales are baleen whales, as they have baleen (comb-like rows of bristles) instead of teeth in their mouth.
The humpback whale takes a big gulp of seawater in its mouth, sieves the food, and pushes out water through its baleen.
They are seasonal feeders that inhabit polar regions throughout the summer months and concentrate on feeding.
This is the time they gobble up food and build up fat reserves. During winters, they migrate toward warmer waters in the tropical region. There they use the stored blubber fat and focus on mating.
Can A Human Be Swallowed By A Humpback Whale?
The body of a humpback whale is large enough to accommodate several people. However, despite its mammoth size, you need not worry about these big cubs of the ocean feasting on you. They do not possess teeth to tear their prey apart.
It is rare that a person even gets hurt by a humpback whale. They are usually very alert and considerate and humpback whales are not capable of swallowing a human being.
There are various folklore stories and incidents about whales swallowing human beings. But they would spit them out as soon as they can as they are unable to swallow or chew them.
They generally do not show aggressive behavior towards humans but may defend themselves if threatened or provoked.
What Would Happen If A Humpback Whale Swallowed A Human?
Whales rarely swallow humans. They can easily feed themselves by filtering seawater rather than working hard on crunching and munching fragile human bones.
If a humpback whale swallowed a human, it will have to squeeze through the esophagus.
The throat of whales is slimy and tight. A high level of methane present in the whale’s body will make you lightheaded.
As the muscular movement of the humpback whale’s throat forces you down, there will be a lack of oxygen; high levels of hydrochloric acid will start disintegrating your body.
More acids will start breaking down your body’s skin, organs, and muscles. Eventually, after digestion and absorption of all the flesh, bones will be expelled through the anus.
Are Humpback Whales Interested In Eating Humans?
There is no record that proves that humpback whales have ever eaten a human being. The absence of teeth makes them uninterested in eating humans.
The answer to the question, why do humpback whales not eat humans is clearly understood.
Still, there have been a few theories regarding why these whales are not interested in human flesh.
They say that the whales don’t feel appealed by the taste of human flesh, or that it is not similar to their food.
After all, why try to eat a human when you can gobble up thousands of krill in one large scoop?
There are also theories explaining that these whales avoid consuming people as they are smart enough to make a conscious decision not to.
In many instances it has been observed that humans do not come into close enough contact in the wild with animals such as sperm whales; to even consider them a threat.
Could A Humpback Whale Digest A Human?
The humpback whale is a friendly giant which can not swallow and digest you, even if it wanted to.
A human being can certainly fit in a whale’s mouth, but once in the mouth, there is not a lot the whale can do with you.
In comparison the actual throat of humpback whales is quite tiny; its maximum expansion capacity is the size of a human fist or a grapefruit.
Could Any Whale Eat A Human?
Whales are humongous as compared to humans. So, it might make one think if any whale could eat a human.
A whale that could eat a human will need to have strong enough teeth; that may break up a mammal as large as a human into pieces small enough to swallow and digest.
The sperm whale is the only whale with a throat big enough to eat a human. Their throats evolved to swallow giant squids.
It is a toothed whale, with each tooth weighing around 1kg. Sperm whales are deep water divers, so there is a very slim chance of you encountering them.
Humpback whales are generally not interested in devouring a human.
They have been found to be fairly friendly towards humans and rarely attack them unless they feel threatened or are provoked.
These whales have great memory and recognition skills too, so an unamusing event from the past caused by a ship or a group of people may leave a mark on the whale’s memory.
A whale may attack a boat if it becomes frightened due to loud noises or has experienced abuse in the past.
Fun fact – sperm whales actually used to attack whaling boats as they would remember when the boats came this usually meant there was a massacre about to happen.
Humpback whale attacks happen once in a while but the acknowledgeable thing here is that these attacks occur very rarely.
To sum up, the one and only thing a humpback whale wants is a very very large quantity of very very small aquatic creatures. Anything else will come as a massive shock and it will get rid of it as soon as possible!
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I am a lover of everything nature and animal related with over 15 years of experience in the field of wildlife rescue and education. Currently living in Colombia working with wild and domestic animals and spending all my free time writing about them 🙂