How do whales swallow food underwater without drowning?

I know they have a valve that blocks the trachea while the mouth is open and that breathing is made from dorsal or parietal breathing holes or nares, which have valves that close underwater. But when they eat underwater, how do they prevent seawater from flooding their stomach and drowning them?

Crocodylians face similar problems. They have a palatal valve that seals the trachea and the esophagus while it opens their mouth underwater, preventing them from drowning. However, when feeding, crocs swallow above water, putting their head out of the water. That's how they prevent water from flooding their stomach.

I reckon that whales who eat fish and squids do not resort to this solution, since it will require them to surface after each fish is swallowed. However, Baleen whales filter the water out using the baleens in their mouth, but what about "teeth" whales like orcas?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Your title and question are both poorly worded. You alternate between talking about drowning and swallowing large amounts of water and treats the two as if they were the same thing. They are obviously not. Since it is well within human experience to swallow things without also choking on them, I think you are more interested in how whales do not swallow a bunch of water, and if they do, how they deal with it. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Jan 4 at 2:24
  • $\begingroup$ You seem to have Googled about baleen whales and crocodiles so I assume you tried Googling about orcas too but were having trouble. Trying Googling about "dolphins" instead. The answer comes up right away. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Jan 4 at 2:25
  • $\begingroup$ @DKNguyen - you are borderline answering the Q in the comments; I would suggest turning it in an answer, because it already is an interesting read as is :) $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    Commented Jan 5 at 9:12


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