Why Is the Ocean So Salty? Whale Sperm!
By David Emery, About.com Guide
Netlore Archive: According to this forwarded email, a typical blue whale produces over 400 gallons of sperm when it ejaculates... and you wonder why the ocean is so salty!
Description: Email hoax / Joke
Text circulating since: Oct 2002
Image circulating since: June 2003
Status: False (see details below)
Email contributed by Duane G., June 17, 2003:
OH MY GOD!!!!
FW: Don't drink the sea water... read below first....
The average blue whale produces over 400 gallons of sperm when it ejaculates, but only 10% of that actually makes it into his mate. So 360 gallons are spilled into the ocean every time one unloads, and you wonder why the ocean is so salty...
Click to Enlarge
Analysis: If you're looking for a scientific explanation of why the ocean is salty, click here. (Hint: it has nothing to do with whale sperm.)
As to the forwarded email above, it's a two-part hoax, the text having first appeared as a "Fact of the Day" on email joke lists toward the end of 2002; the attached image is of unknown origin and didn't begin making the rounds until June 2003.
It should be obvious at first glance that the text and image don't match. How could the relatively small aquatic specimen in the photo possibly produce 400 gallons of sperm at a go? (By way of comparison, the capacity of an average hot tub is roughly that same amount, 400 gallons, meaning this poor creature would have to possess testicles twice the size of the rest of its body to live up to its glandular reputation.) In point of fact, the animal in the photo probably isn't a blue whale at all (see below).
A question of testicular volume
Blue whales being the largest animals on the planet, it stands to reason that their reproductive organs ought to be of similarly impressive dimensions, and that is certainly the case. By one estimate, the penis of a blue whale can measure up to 16 feet long and its testicles weigh in at around 25 pounds apiece. But even packing 50 pounds of bollocks the weight of an average-sized bulldog, if you need a benchmark it's absurd to imagine that a blue whale (or any other creature on earth, for that matter) could produce 400 gallons of seminal fluid at a time, or even one-tenth that amount.
The statistic is bogus.
Whale or whale shark?
Finally, there's the question of whether the animal depicted in the image is even a blue whale at all which, actually, it appears it is not. Blue whales average at least 75 feet in length. Using the human beings in the image above for scale, the creature is clearly smaller than a blue whale and most likely isn't any kind of whale at all, but rather a whale shark.
Since sharks don't have penises per se, we must further conclude that either the photograph was doctored (though I could detect no obvious signs of that), or the spectacular appendage dangling between the animal's pelvic fins is one of its claspers, a pair of tubular organs with which a male shark fastens itself to the female and inseminates her during reproduction.
To sum up:
- Blue whales can't possibly ejaculate 400 gallons of sperm (the capacity of an average-sized hot tub) not even close.
- The animal in the photo probably isn't a blue whale, nor the circled appendage its penis.
- There are good reasons to avoid making a habit of drinking sea water but sperm spillover isn't one of them.
- Which is more than can be said for hot tub water.
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Urban Legends Blog, 7 July 2003
Sources and further reading:
Why Is the Ocean Salty?
Is It True the the Blue Whale Ejaculates 400 Gallons of Sperm?
Ask the Researcher! (Whales Online, 14 April 2003)
How Big Is a Blue Whale's Penis/Testicles?
Ask a Scientist (WhaleNet, 20 March 1997)
Did You Know?
Sydney Morning Herald, 30 July 2002
In Pursuit of Giants
Sunday Times (South Africa), 22 Sep. 2002
Is a Whale Shark a Whale or a Shark?
North Carolina Aquarium Society
Canadian Shark Research Laboratory
Last updated: 02/04/11