A beached whale

Here's Why Whales Literally Explode After They Die

Kori Williams - Author

Sep. 7 2021, Published 4:53 p.m. ET

It's no secret there are things in nature that don't always make sense to us. The wild is well, a wild place and seemingly, anything can happen. We can have all our research in place, and yet be astounded by how little we understand of a phenomenon. One of those things is why whales explode after they die.

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Why do whales explode after they die? It may seem like it doesn't make sense, but when you find out why, it all adds up. Here's what we know about it and how people may actually be to blame.

Why do whales explode after they die?

According to National Geographic, after a whale dies, it's organs — stomach contents and everything — begin to decompose. This causes gases to build up and get trapped inside the body. Even though the insides start decomposing, the outside stays intact for a while because a whale's skin and blubber are thick and tough. Because of this, the body begins to expand.

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A Whale
Source: Getty Images

Eventually, those trapped gases have to go somewhere. Typically, the whale's body will deflate. The article further states that when they explode, it's usually because there's some human interference. People will try to take a souvenir from the body or crews working in the water will try to move them out of the way. All of this can cause the gases to move around in a way they normally wouldn't and cause the explosion.

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Do whales normally explode when they die?

As there are usually less people in the water where whales die, they don't usually explode. Instead, they sink to the bottom. Per the article, they tend to make it to the sea floor in one piece. And this is a good thing since the whale now becomes a source of food for animals in the surrounding area.

A Whale
Source: Getty Images
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Whales are huge animals. There aren't many other animals that can match them in size, so that means a dead whale is a ton of food for other creatures on the sea floor. This food could last in that ecosystem for a long time.

NatGeo further states that this is called a "whalefall" and whole communities of life can be built around the death of these large animals. First, bigger creatures come by to break down the body. That allows smaller ones to come through and feed off of it as well.

According to the article, this process of disposing a whale's body can last up to 30 years. This is great for the overall lifecycle of the ocean and gives the creatures there access to food they may not have otherwise.

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