The Sunday Telegraph

The facts on cetaceans


Q How big are humpback whales?

A The sixth largest cetacean species, humpbacks can grow to 52 feet and weigh 30 tonnes.

Q Can a humpback whale eat a person?

A No. Whales open their mouths and lunge to eat, their mouths filling like giant water balloons full of floating prey. But humpbacks eat krill and small fish and while their mouths could engulf a human, they could not swallow one.

Q Could any whale swallow a human?

A The only species likely to be able to swallow a human whole is a sperm whale. A mariner named James Bartley was reportedly swallowed by one in 1891. But Bartley was also reportedly rescued alive from the stomach of the whale by his crewmates after 36 hours, suggesting the tale is as apocryphal as that of Jonah, who was said to have lived for three days in a whale’s belly.

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