A whale shark is a fish and does not eat people
There is a lot of controversy on whether a whale shark can swallow a human due to its big size and huge mouth and probably because of the fact that although being a fish (the biggest in the world, not a whale), it is also infamously called a shark.
A whale shark has a huge mouth but can not swallow a human
It is true though that a whale shark has a mouth as big as 5 feet long, sucks in more than 600 cubic meters of water every hour while feeding. They swallow this incredible amount of water because they need to capture as much food as they can and their food is strictly plankton.
However, if you can’t take the picture of Pinocchio getting swallowed by a huge whale out of your head when you first encounter one face to face, this information will ease your nerves a little bit because a whale shark simply can not swallow a human.
The obvious reason is because a whale shark has an esophagus that measures only a few inches across. So, physically it is impossible to be swallowed by a whale shark. Also, a whale shark knows what to eat and even if you are on their way they will just move and avoid you.
If a whale shark would swallow a human by accident it would spit it out
What if a whale shark swallows a person by accident? It has never happened before but according to Phillip Motta a researcher at the University of South Florida a whale shark will immediately spit you out.
He conducted several experiments such as throwing rice and Sargasso weed right in front of the whale shark’s mouth while feeding and it would immediately spit it as soon as it entered the mouth.
So, if you are still traumatized for watching Pinocchio being swallowed by the whale, you can be calm now, a whale shark won’t eat you and if they do swallow you by accident -which is quite unlikely to happen-, they will spit you out right away.
A whale shark is the gentlest creature you will encounter and swimming alongside them it is an experience you will never forget!
Would you like to see a whale shark live?
- Philip J. Motta et al., Feeding anatomy, filter-feeding rate, and diet of whale sharks Rhincodon typus during surface ram filter feeding off the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, Zoology Journal, Volume 113, Issue 4, August 2010, pages 199–212.