Can Whales Actually Eat and Swallow Humans? 3 Facts and 3 Myths

Breaching Humpback Whale
© PaulWolf/iStock via Getty Images

Written by Patrick MacFarland

Published: April 16, 2024

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There are many rumors surrounding animals that people believe. For example, there are rumors that piranhas can eat humans. There are rumors about all the animals in the animal kingdom. Many of them are false or have been greatly exaggerated by riders in the past or people who have encountered these animals. Movies have been a great culprit and have exaggerated several animal traits.  When it comes to whales, a fairy tale that was turned into a Disney movie created a myth about these big creatures. Of course, we’re talking about the movie and fairy tale Pinocchio. So, the question remains, can whales actually eat and swallow humans? The fairly simple answer is no, they cannot. It is physically impossible for whales to eat and swallow humans. But let’s explore a more detailed answer and other facts and myths about whales.

Myth: Whales Can Eat Humans

What do whales eat - killer whale teeth

Whales cannot eat humans, as legends and myths have spread.

©Heather Renee/Shutterstock.com

Let’s start with the main myth that a lot of people think. Can whales actually eat and swallow humans? The answer is no. Sure, whales have extremely large mouths, but what matters is their throats. Their throats are extremely small and a human cannot fit in that throat. Also, some whales don’t have teeth. Whales usually eat smaller marine animals like fish, squid, krill, plankton, and jellyfish. All these marine animals are very small and have a gelatin-like substance that is easy to swallow. 

Myth: Whales Are Fish

Pod of Sperm Whales in a social group, Indian Ocean, Mauritius.

Most people think whales are fish, but in actuality, they are mammals.

©wildestanimal/Shutterstock.com

Another common myth that many people believe about whales is that they are fish. The misconception stems from the fact that because fish are the overwhelming animal that lives in the ocean, and whales look like fish, many think that whales and fish are the same. However, that is not true. Whales are mammals. Whales breathe air with their lungs. Just like humans and mammals around the world, they also give birth to their young as living creatures.

Myth: Whales Are One Species

humpback whale

There are more than 90 species of whales that exist on this planet.

©Imagine Earth Photography/Shutterstock.com

Another myth that many people spread about whales is that there’s only one species of whale. that can be further from the truth. In fact, there are more than 90 species of whales on this planet. They all look differently and they all act differently. Whales are a diverse species that live in various waters around the Earth.

Fact: Whales Live All Over The World

Bowhead whale

Whales inhabit every ocean on this planet and some migrate from ocean to ocean.

©Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons – Original / License

There are various oceans on this planet and whales inhabit every one of them. They even inhabit seas. The fact of the matter is that whales live all over the world. Some whales roam around in the Arctic or Antarctic oceans.  Other whales love traversing the Mediterranean Sea or the Caribbean Sea. Depending on the species of whale, you’ll find them in cold Waters or tropical waters. Lastly, many species of whales migrate from one body of water to another.

Fact: Whales Are A Threatened Species

Twelve pilot whales die after beaching at Donegal, Ireland.

The Rice’s whale and North Atlantic right whale are considered critically endangered.

©Stephen Barnes/iStock via Getty Images

Many animals fall under the threatened species category.  There are also many animals in the endangered species category. Human interference has largely been the main cause and creating this endangerment. When it comes to whales, some are not in any type of category and are doing just fine. Others make scientists and environmental activists concerned. The main reasons why many species of whales are becoming threatened or endangered are as follows: climate change, whaling, and collisions with ships.

Fact: Most Whales Are Massive

blue whale

Bowhead whales can live a whopping 200 years, whereas killer whales can live to be 100 years old.

©Andrew Sutton/Shutterstock.com

There are many species of whales and some of them may not be huge, but the majority of them are extremely large. In fact, the largest animal that has ever lived on this planet is the blue whale. The blue whale can grow up to 90 feet long and can weigh a whopping 330,000 pounds. The best part about many whales is that they are also some of the longest-living mammals on this planet. Some whales can live for more than 100 or even 200 years.

Conclusion

And there you have it, the simple answer is that whales cannot eat and swallow humans. It is not physically possible for whales to do so. Of course, movies have perpetuated this exaggeration about these stunning creatures. There are other myths about them that humans have believed over the years, but scientists have disproven these myths and ensured that whales are seen in a more positive light. Whales are majestic and unique creatures, so the next time you go whale watching, think about all the myths and facts you learned about whales.


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About the Author

Patrick Macfarland is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering travel, geography, and history. Patrick has been writing for more than 10 years. In the past, he has been a teacher and a political candidate. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from SDSU and a Master's Degree in European Union Studies from CIFE. From San Diego, California, Patrick loves to travel and try new recipes to cook.

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