A Whale Can Swallow More Water Than Its Entire Body Volume

(Image: University of British Columbia)

Rorqual whales eat by swallowing massive gulps of water, then filtering out fish and krill from the water. Scientists at the University of British Colombia recently discovered that those gulps of water can be larger than the whales themselves, which can grow up to 20 meters long. The CBC reports:

The whale has nerves to its mouth and tongue that can stretch to double their normal length, then snap back without damage, said Wayne Vogl, a professor in the department of cellular and physiological sciences at UBC. […]

With a mouth thdat "basically expands like a balloon," it makes sense that "all the wiring and plumbing" would have to expand too, said Vogl.

But researchers didn't know how the nerves could reach such length without breaking.

It turns out the nerve fibers themselves aren't stretching at all — but folding and unfolding within a protective layer of tissue.

"So the nerves themselves aren't actually hurt or injured by the stretch."

-via Marginal Revolution

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