Out Of Water: Can Whales Survive On Land?

can whales survive on land

Sharing is caring!

Whales are notorious for their incredible intelligence, fascinating behaviors, and for being some of the largest animals to have ever lived on earth.

But if you’ve ever wondered what would happen to these ocean giants if they wound up on land, you’re not alone.

Can whales survive on land is a question that has been asked by people all over the world for decades, as after all, whales do breathe air and are mammals.

In this article, we’ll explore whether or not whales can survive on land and what would happen if they were suddenly thrust into a terrestrial environment.

Let’s dive in…

Can Whales Survive On Land?

No, whales can NOT survive on land. Whilst whales are remarkable animals that are perfectly adapted to life in the ocean, they would not survive for very long on land.

Whales have been around for around 30 – 50 million years, and during this time they’ve adapted and evolved to thrive in their ocean habitats.

can whales survive on land
Image by Kyle Mortara

They have fins, baleen plates, a blowhole, and many other adaptations that allow them to live in the ocean, but these would all be rendered useless if they were to venture onto land.

Whilst some whales do occasionally beach themselves on land, this is typically a sign of illness and distress rather than an intentional move.

Not a single whale species could survive on land for very long as their bodies are not accustomed to the changes that would happen.

Why Can’t Whales Survive On Land?

There are a number of reasons why whales are unable to survive on land, with the main reason being that their bodies are not designed to be there.

Whales are marine mammals that have evolved and adapted to life in the ocean over millions of years, so being on land would be completely foreign to them and kill them very quickly.

For one, whales rely on the buoyancy of the water to support their weight, whilst on land, gravity would put enormous strain on their internal organs and skeletal structure, causing irreparable damage.

Unlike humans, whales are conscious breathers that need to decide when to breathe which is why they have a blowhole and can only shut down one-half of their brain at a time when they sleep.

On land, the pressure of gravity would make it near impossible for them to breathe, allowing them only a few hours to live if they did end up on land.

Another big issue would be finding food, whales have adapted to feeding on a variety of marine species such as krill, squid, plankton, and small fish.

They would struggle to find any reliable food source on land which see them to waste away very quickly.

Whales would be completely immobile on land as their fluke and fins would be completely useless, stranding them in one spot and making it almost impossible for them to move at all.

As you can see, life on land would be impossible for whales for any substantial amount of time, so they are not able to survive in a terrestrial environment.

What Would Happen To A Whale On Land?

If a whale was to wind up on land, which sadly does happen, it would be a dire and desperate situation for the animal.

Without the buoyancy of the water supporting its weight, it would be crushed by its own weight due to the force of gravity and struggle to breathe.

It would be very difficult for the whale to expand its lungs which could quickly lead to suffocation.

The whale’s skin would become damaged quickly from the rough terrain and sand, likely scraping and cutting the whale.

Depending on the location, the scorching sun would quickly dehydrate the whale which would also cause more complications.

Sunburn, dehydration, overheating, and hypothermia would all be concerns for a whale that found itself on land.

Without intervention from humans, the whale would be in a world of trouble and wouldn’t be able to survive for longer than a couple of hours.

Can A Whale Breathe Out Of Water?

Whales are marine mammals, which means like you and me, they breathe air to replenish their oxygen stores.

They have lungs that have about the same volume as a small car, allowing them to hold their breath for up to 60 minutes in most species.

Their respiratory systems are perfectly adapted to life in the ocean as their weight is supported by the water.

can whales survive on land

On land, their respiratory system would fail as it is not designed to operate outside of the water, so the whales would not be able to breathe properly which would lead to suffocation

Whilst whales do breathe air, they are only able to do so because their respiratory system and lungs are supported by the buoyancy of the water.

Without this support, the whale would collapse under its own weight and be unable to breathe.

Wrapping Up

In summary, NO, whales can not survive out of the water for longer than a couple of hours due to the pressure of gravity and other complications on the body.

The whale’s whole bodily functions are adapted to live in the water, so without this, they would be in a dire situation that would ultimately lead to their death.

Whales are marine mammals that should ALWAYS be in the water, and they cannot survive outside of the water for very long.

A stranded whale that found itself on land would need human intervention quickly to be able to survive.

If you ever do happen to come across a stranded whale, be sure to call the authorities quickly so that they can send a trained team to help the animal.

Thanks for taking the time to read this article and learn more about whales today.

See you next time!