After several memes started popping up on social media, ranking politicians and other high class business men next to a whale’s anus, social media users couldn’t stop wondering “How big is a blue whale’s anus, anyway?”
Scientists, however, where able to answer the question regarding the memes. A whale's anus can stretch 3.5 foot.
Dr. Matt Leslie, a visiting assistant professor of biology at Swarthmore College, said that “Most of the data that we have on large whale species comes from back in the day when we used to kill a lot of them.” He's referring to a whaling industry that killed hundreds of thousands of blue whales, likely restructured marine ecosystems, and nearly drove them extinct.
However, he added that “there wasn't a whole lot of interest in anuses.”
Marine mammal illustrator and American Cetacean Society President, Uko Gorter, agreed that study of whale’s rectums scarped scientific scrutiny for centuries. He also added that there still is no interest in studying the “absolute size, or its capacity for super flatulence.”
Scientist were, however, much more concerned with how much blood, meat, and blubber the whale could provide – and would sometimes note the impressive penis of a male whale.
Going into more detail of the whale’s anus, Dr Leslie added that “If you were to just take a blue whale and roll it over – as if that were easy to do – the female is going to have a slit, like right at the base of her tail. That slit covers both her genitalia and anus.
According to Dr Leslie, scientists “didn’t spend a lot of time fishing around inside of the slits.” However, they did take measurements from the anus to the clitoris, or the length of the slit, which, for the largest whales, measured four to five feet.
According to scientists, male whales have two slits. One for the anal opening and the other for the penis.
Even though scientists have not really studied the size of the anus, which is the end of the poop chute, they did, however, have another way seeing that the size of the anus is directed by the size of its contents.
Poop research is non-invasive and, fortunately, legal. Dr. Nick Pyenson, curator of fossil marine mammals at the Smithsonian and author of Spying on Whales, as well as Stanford University biology postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Matthew Savoca, have indeed had their hands and eyes working on whale defecation, and hope to publish their research soon.
Dr Savoca stated that “The whale poop I have been around typically is a five or six on the Bristol Stool Scale, so it's not as though they're passing blocks the size of a refrigerator or something.”
To understand a whales creative anus, you would need to understand the different content a whale can produce. The Stool Scale is a quasi-quantitative rating system which offers more visceral understanding of the quality of poo a whale’s anus can shoot out. In 1997, the Bristol Stool Scale was developed by the Bristol Royal Infirmary. It was developed as a tool to help patients and their clinicians better communicate fecal appearance and consistency.
In this case, a whales poo can range from Type 1, which is described a hard; then from type 2 until 6, you can expect anything from soft-blobs, and fluffy raggedy edged bits, which then leads up to nut-like poo; and coming to Type 7, it is pure liquid.
Do not expect the same as you see in dogs. According to photos Pyenson and Savoca shared, it is yellow-gold, salmony-pink, and coppery brown feces ranging for several feet. “Their poop is not like ours. It’s not like floating logs in the ocean. It's much more diffuse, kind of like fuzzy, almost fleecy,” Pyenson added. “To put it bluntly,” Gorter says, “no turds.”
According to Dr. Dara Orbach, an assistant professor of Marine Biology at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, the meme likely assumes that animal anus scales with animal size. However, that is not always the case as she added that blue whales also have relatively small brains for their body size.
However, the answer for how much a blue whale’s anus could stretch still remains a mystery.
Dr Orbach added that “It would be very straightforward to test the stretching capacity of an anus using biomechanical approaches (tensile test), but getting a fresh blue whale anus would not be easy. In my sampling of over 400 marine mammal reproductive tracts, I have never received a blue whale specimen, and the blue whale that I necropsied had its genitalia eaten by sharks.”
Leslie and Pyenson, also came to the same estimate, that a whales anus could be around 10-15 centimeters. However, another source, a book, Ostéographie de la baleine échouée à l'est du port d'Ostende le 4 novembre 1827, which was published in 1828 by J. Dubar, shows a detailed drawing of a 25 meter long female blue whale’s vulva and anus.
The scale bar, which according to Gorter likely measures in 10cm increments, indicates that an anal opening is around 15-20cm. Unfortunately, by the time the drawing was made, the whale had already started to decompose, making for a larger than normal orifice.
In conclusion, we can clearly see that size does not tell all. The anus of a whale could be the size of a grapefruit, and that politician very well may be the world’s biggest asshole after all.