Image of floating poop.

Enlarge / That stuff floating in the water is exactly what you think it is. (credit: Jeff Gritchen/Orange County Register)

When we saw the memes scoring the size of a blue whale’s anus second to some of the year’s most reviled politicians, our first thought was that it was deliciously funny. Naturally, our next thought was, “Is this true?” and “How big is a blue whale’s anus, anyway?”

The first obstacle getting an answer to these pressing questions was persuading scientists to answer interview requests. One admitted that at first, he assumed his colleagues were messing with him. Once convinced our request was not a joke, the situation improved only slightly.

“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,” says Dr. Matt Leslie, a visiting assistant professor of biology at Swarthmore College. And by “a lot” Leslie refers to a whaling industry that killed 2 million to 3 million blue whales, likely restructured marine ecosystems, and nearly drove them extinct. “And to be honest,” Leslie says, “there wasn’t a whole lot of interest in an anuses.”

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