Subject: Whales drinking water

Martine Berube (
Tue, 21 Oct 1997 16:09:18 -0700

Question: My four year old grandson asked me if whales drank water. I
answered ,"yes" and he wanted to know how. My common sense tells me that
whales have to process fresh water to survive. Can you shed
some light on this question? Thanks in advance.

Answer: Whales require fresh water just like other mammals.  Because they
live in
the ocean, they have to obtain their water in ways that are different from
most mammals that live on land.  Scientists speculate that mammals that
live in the ocean obtain their water from the food they eat.  Their bodies
appear to be adapted to
absorb salt-free water from the fish, krill, and other organisms they eat.  Some
species might even have mechanisms to take in ocean water and take out the
salt so that their bodies can use the salt-free water for metabolic
purposes.  Scientists are still studying this aspect of whale physiology.


Martine Berube
Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
University of California
Irvine, CA, 92697-2525