Whales – who doesn’t love them? Some of us look at the ocean’s gracious giants and feel a sense of complete awe, others wonder if their farts match their body size. Wonder no more because Vanessa Pirotta, Wildlife scientist at Macquarie University in Australia, has answered with some curious excitement.
“I’ve waited a long time for a question like this! I usually talk about whale snot for my research (yes, whales have snot), and I’m so excited to look into this, too.”
The short answer: Yes, whales do fart.
Vanessa went on to put the image in our heads of the size and amount of bubbles from the world’s largest mammal, the blue whale. The oceans probably turn into a version of a giant jacuzzi if the whale lads are close to the surface. The opportunity to be subtle about the toot is simply not there.
Whales are mammals, meaning they are like us in more ways than we think. They have hair, give birth to live young, provide their young with milk, and produce some gases from a meal swallowed whole every once in a while.
Wild fact: Whales according to Vanessa, have the coolest poop in the kingdom (because apparently that’s a category of cool). Their droppings are literally orange.
Okay, that’s cool but do whales sneeze? Honestly, we want to say yes but the truth is just no.
“Unlike us, whales need to think about breathing. When they want to take a breath, they need to swim to the surface. If they don’t, they could drown,” Vanessa expresses.
But what if a whale did sneeze somehow?
“It would be big! For comparison, an adult human’s lungs can hold around six litres of air. But a humpback whale can hold over 1,000 litres — that’s a lot of bubbles!
You can actually see a whale’s breath: it’s a mixture of lung bacteria, hormones, proteins and lipids. It’s officially called “whale lung microbiota” — or whale snot — and looks like water droplets.”
There’s something intriguing about knowing that a creature so big and marvellous is also a gassy bubble factory every once in a while.