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Q: Any fish that can swallow a person? ( Answered,   10 Comments )
Subject: Any fish that can swallow a person?
Category: Science > Biology
Asked by: doory-ga
List Price: $3.00
Posted: 12 Feb 2005 09:59 PST
Expires: 14 Mar 2005 09:59 PST
Question ID: 473385
what are the fishes (if any) that can swallow an average adult person?
(not just bite in half then eat it, but swallow at ONCE, without
breaking it apart)
Subject: Re: Any fish that can swallow a person?
Answered By: denco-ga on 12 Feb 2005 21:03 PST
Howdy doory-ga,

The only fish that could theoretically do it is the Great White shark.

From the Shark Attacks web site.  Scroll down to see the picture.

"A photo of a Great White swallowing a whole 2.10 Meters Dusky Shark. The
Dusky Shark was hanging at the stern during a fishing competition. This is
... photographic proof that a Great White shark can swallow a man whole."

The picture can be seen here by itself.

2.1 meters is just short of 7 feet long.

From the MSN Encarta entry on the Great White shark.

"One of the largest specimens was caught off Montauk, Long Island, New York,
in 1964; it was 5.34 m [over 17.5 feet] long ... White sharks swallow unchewed
creatures and objects half their size ..."

Note that a Great White shark that was over 17 feet long could swallow whole
a creature (say, an adult person) that was 6 feet tall.

If you need any clarification, feel free to ask.

Research strategy:


Looking Forward, denco-ga - Google Answers Researcher

Clarification of Answer by denco-ga on 12 Feb 2005 21:06 PST
Apologies, but my search strategy should have been listed as:

Search strategy:

Google search on: "Great White" shark swallow human OR person OR man

Request for Answer Clarification by doory-ga on 12 Feb 2005 23:45 PST
you did a search on shark that swallow man. that's rather incomplete
in answering my question. sharks do not include ALL fishes in the
water, yet you said "only fish that could theoretically..." Your
theory is based on one website that says, "the shark can swallow up to
half its size..." but the website in no way says that  there is no
other fish bigger than this shark, right?
I mean, any reading this question would think of the possibility of
something bigger than shark, like whale? i would like to know why
can't whale "theoretically do it?" is it cuz whale has SMALL mouth?
can you prove me that whale can't do it? My question was "what ARE ths
fishes..." so please don't settle it with just one shark.
Thank you, this is very important, and has something to do with whale,
so I would like to know in the direction of whale, thanks.

Clarification of Answer by denco-ga on 13 Feb 2005 12:54 PST
Howdy doory-ga,

I did not include whales because (as frde-ga points out) they are mammals.
Let's include "fish-like" mammals then.  Narwhal, killer whales and such are
not large enough.

Most larger whales are of the "baleen" type, which are filters used to gather
shrimp, etc. to eat.  These whales have gullets (throats) that are too small
to let a human through.

We are left with a (very) large toothed whale then, the sperm whale to be
specific.  From the web site.

"The gullet of Physeter catodon is the largest among cetaceans; it is in fact
the only gullet large enough to swallow a human."

As part of the research I had checked out catfish, and ruled them out as
being too small.  There are large ones out there, just not big enough. Here
is a National Geographic article on "Asia's Giant Catfish."

"Called Pla Buek in Thai, the giant catfish can weigh as much as 650 pounds
(300 kilograms) and measure up to 10 feet (3 meters) in length. They are the
largest scaleless freshwater fish in the world."

There are also sheatfish (wels) and Chinese paddlefish, but neither currently
exist in the sizes needed to swallow a whole human.  Likewise there are the
larger (whale and basking) sharks, but they are filter feeders and their gullet
are not large enough to allow them to swallow a human.

Looking Forward, denco-ga - Google Answers Researcher
Subject: Re: Any fish that can swallow a person?
From: frde-ga on 13 Feb 2005 00:35 PST
A whale is not a fish - it is a mammal

Denco-ga assumed you knew that

Similarly there are giant squid that could swallow a man 
- but they too are not fish

Personally I would be interested in checking out size records for catfish
- perhaps piscine giganticism
- I've heard that carp just keep growing - a giant goldfish ?
Subject: Re: Any fish that can swallow a person?
From: doory-ga on 13 Feb 2005 10:18 PST
Of course I know that whale is not a fish... I guess I didn't make my
point clear enough... I used the term fish loosely. Let me try again,
beside shark, how about whale? You don't have to worry about dolphin,
seals and sea turtles...
My point in regard to his answer still stood... one can't just find a
website saying that there is a shark that can swallow a human being to
conclude that "the only fish theoretically can...,"  because that
piece of information "ONLY FISH" was rather fabricated. Please at
least attempt to prove that point...
Subject: Re: Any fish that can swallow a person?
From: probonopublico-ga on 13 Feb 2005 23:42 PST
I've heard tales of hungry crocodiles swallowing grown men whole.

This has always seemed very fishy to me so perhaps it should be
included for the sake of completeness?
Subject: Re: Any fish that can swallow a person?
From: jack_of_few_trades-ga on 14 Feb 2005 07:20 PST
"An adult male (saltwater crocodile) can weigh more than 2,600 pounds
and reach a length of 21 feet"

I think a 21 foot 2,600 lb croc would be able to down a 150 lb man in
one gulp if he had the urge.
Subject: Re: Any fish that can swallow a person?
From: denco-ga on 14 Feb 2005 10:03 PST
Howdy all!

Well, if I didn't have to worry about "dolphin, seals and sea turtles..."
then I didn't think I had to consider crocodiles, no matter how fishy the
tale (or is that tail?).   I'm surprised that snakes weren't mentioned.

It always gets down to gullet, or throat size.  With the current known
size of crocs and snakes, it doesn't appear that either have big enough
gullets to swallow an average adult person.

Looking Forward, denco-ga - Google Answers Researcher
Subject: Re: Any fish that can swallow a person?
From: jack_of_few_trades-ga on 14 Feb 2005 12:26 PST
"There are whales which do not have teeth, but are provided with
"whalebones." Among such a type of whale there are whales which are
called "fin-backs." These whales can be up to 88 feet long. The
stomach of such a whale has from four to six chambers or compartments,
each of which could easily contain a small group of people. This type
of whale breathes air and has on its head a reserve air chamber which
appears with the dilation of the nasal cavities. Before swallowing a
very large object, the finback whale pushes it through to this
chamber. If it happens that something too large is found in the head
of this whale, then it will swim to the nearest land, lie in the
shallow water and disgorge its burden."

This is in fact a Christian site obviously talking about the physical
possiblities of Jonah (as I imagine you are curious about Denco).  So
perhaps this information and the other info on this site (it is very
good reading) should be compared to other scientific findings, but
this is a good jumping point for further google searches.
Subject: Re: Any fish that can swallow a person?
From: jack_of_few_trades-ga on 14 Feb 2005 12:43 PST
"Like other whalebone whales, Finbacks feed by using their baleen, the
fringed plates on both sides of the mouth, as a strainer. There may be
over four hundred plates on each side, each some seventy centimetres
long. These plates are on the upper jaws only. The lower jaws are
bowed outwards, and are joined together by ligaments at their front
ends, to give some flexibility of movement. The throats of whalebone
whales are grooved, longitudinally, indicating the presence of pleats
that allow an enormous expansion of the throat cavity when water is
taken in. The mouth, itself, can be opened very wide and, together
with the expansion of the throat, tonnes of water are strained through
the baleen every time the animal takes a mouthful."

The site also has a picture of a dead one (in 1865) with people
standing behind it so you can see humans relative to the size of its
mouth.  The huge size of its mouth and the "enormous expansion of the
throat cavity when water is taken in" should make it clear that it's
capable of swallowing a man whole.
Subject: Re: Any fish that can swallow a person?
From: denco-ga on 14 Feb 2005 13:27 PST
Again, it is the gullet size that is the blocking point.  If you look at
the image of the finback skeleton at the web site mentioned, it appears
that the gullet area constricts down to maybe a foot across.  Add a layer
of fat and muscles to the bones in that area, and it would appear to be
too small for a human to get through.  I have not seen anything that would
indicate that a human would pass through the baleen either.

The web site statement still stands good to me.

Looking Forward, denco-ga - Google Answers Researcher
Subject: Re: Any fish that can swallow a person?
From: anthy-ga on 21 Mar 2005 01:05 PST
I'm not 100% about this, but scientists discovered a "living fossil"
(a species that was believed to be extinct) off "Sri Lanka" a number
of years ago, the natives had been fisfing it for years!!!, and if i
remember correctly if was big enough to swallow a person, a search
using the words in quoteation marks should give you more information.
Subject: Re: Any fish that can swallow a person?
From: denco-ga on 21 Mar 2005 11:49 PST
Howdy anthy-ga,

You might be thinking of the coelacanth.  From the Smithsonian National
Museum of Natural History web site.  Alas, too small as well.

"One female contained five full-term pups, each approximately 14" long,
and the other had twenty six pups of approximately the same size. The
latter specimen is also the largest recorded coelacanth, weighing nearly
200 lbs. and reaching 6 feet in length."

Appreciate the comment!

Looking Forward, denco-ga - Google Answers Researcher

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