Can whales cry tears?

Answered by Robert Dupre

Can whales cry tears? This is a question that has fascinated many people, and it’s one that I am often asked as an expert in marine biology. The short answer is no, whales do not cry in the same way that humans do. But let me explain why.

Firstly, it’s important to understand the physiology of tears. Tears are produced by tear glands, which are located in the upper outer corner of the eye. These tear glands are connected to tear ducts, which allow tears to flow from the eye and down the cheek. When we cry, our tear glands produce tears in response to strong emotions or physical irritation, and these tears are then released through the tear ducts.

Now, when it comes to whales, their anatomy is quite different from ours. Whales do possess tear glands, just like humans, but they lack tear ducts. This means that even if they were to produce tears, there would be no way for those tears to be released from the eye.

Instead, the tear glands in whales serve a different purpose. They secrete a greasy liquid that helps to lubricate and protect the surface of the eye. This liquid, known as the aqueous humor, acts as a barrier against debris and helps to keep the eye clean and functioning properly. So, when you see a whale with what appears to be tears streaming down its face, it’s actually just this greasy liquid being released.

It’s worth noting that whales do have other ways of expressing their emotions. For example, they may breach or slap their tails on the water as a form of communication or display. These behaviors are often associated with social interactions or mating rituals. However, crying tears, as we humans understand it, is not one of the ways that whales express their emotions.

While whales possess tear glands, they do not cry tears in the same way that humans do. Their tear glands serve a different purpose, secreting a greasy liquid to keep their eyes clean. So, the next time you see a photo or video of a whale with what appears to be tears, remember that it’s not actually crying in the human sense.