(Almost) Eaten by a Whale

JOSIAH MAYO (MICHAEL PACKARD); DAVID FLEETHAM/NATUREPL.COM (WHALE)

INSIDE A WHALE: Michael Packard says he was trapped in the mouth of a humpback whale for about 30 seconds.

One morning last June while diving for lobsters off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Michael Packard says that he was slurped up by a humpback whale! The animal likely sucked the diver into its mouth by accident.

Humpback whales can’t digest food the size of a human, says Daniel Palacios, a marine biologist at Oregon State University. Normally, these marine mammals dine on small fish and tiny crustaceans like krill. A humpback whale hunts by opening its massive mouth and lunging forward to scoop up seawater and prey. The whale then pushes the water out through the comb-like baleen plates hanging from its upper jaws, so only its food remains.

MICHAEL S. NOLAN/BLUE PLANET ARCHIVE

OPEN WIDE: Humpback whales use their bristly baleen plates to filter tiny prey from seawater.

After realizing it had bitten off more than it could chew, the whale spat out Packard. Luckily, the diver suffered only minor injuries.

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