Ask GR Anything: How does Kirby's stomach work?

Ask GR Anything is a weekly Q&A column that answers questions submitted by readers (as well as questions we're particularly curious about ourselves). Got a burning question about games or the industry? Ask us in the comments below and you may just get it answered!

This week’s question comes from GoPikmin, who inquired two weeks ago, “How about the science of Kirby's stomach if there is any?” Well, GoPikmin: No. There is no established science regarding Kirby’s stomach. So we’ll just have to create some! Get ready to take this junk entirely too seriously as we figure out the biology behind Kirby’s digestive track and make our journalism professors bow their heads in shame.

To begin with, a normal human stomach can hold only about four liters (or a little bit more than a gallon) of any type of material at one time, so there is definitely something interesting going on underneath that fluffy pink exoskeleton. Unless we’ve been drastically overestimating the height and girth of Mario, then the picture above proves Kirby has at least enough stomach area to hold a (small) grown man.

But with some serious practice, just about anybody can expand that stomach size considerably. Take Takeru Kobayashi, for instance. He made headlines all over the world in 2001, when he started smashing competitive eating world records in his rookie season. Most people assumed he was some sort of side-show with a stomach made out of waste from a nuclear reactor. But as it turns out, he just works really hard. For weeks before a competition, he’ll gradually eat more and more, stretching out his stomach to greater and greater sizes – a practice which doctors urge people never to attempt, as there is zero data on the long-term effects of purposefully distorting your own organ (seriously, don’t do it).

Above: Kobayashi after a competitive eating tournament

All the while he works out extremely hard to prevent fat from building up and restricting his stomach size. A 2007 study by the University of Pennsylvania wrote, “successful speed eaters expand the stomach to form an enormous flaccid sac capable of accommodating huge amounts of food.” Which is utterly disgusting, but it may be the clue behind Kirby’s special abilities.

Of course, Kirby might not be entirely human. The more likely scenario is that he’s some sort of sick genetic splice-up between a human, blowfish, and a bird. The blowfish comparison is obvious thanks to his inflation capabilities, and he’s vaguely shaped like a human. But why is he at all like a bird? Because he spits stuff up! Just like a momma bird, Kirby vomits back up his prey to serve further use.

So it’s possible that Kirby has two stomachs, like a bird (a few other animals have them as well; raptors, for instance). The important stomach is called the “crop.” It’s essentially a type of holding pouch where the animal can store food that doesn’t need to be eaten right away. Birds tend to use them to carry food back to their young. The pouch is very muscular, which helps them push the food back out without too much effort.

Above: Strange as it sounds, Kirby may have something in common with this rooster

So why is it necessary to compare Kirby to a bird? Because if he didn’t have a crop, things would get insanely messy. Stomachs are really nasty places. They contain large amounts of very strong acids that help digest things like meat and flesh. So it wouldn’t do well to swallow a guy like Mario, since his entire body would start to be burned away with acids down to its constituent chemicals.

The fun part about imagining Kirby with a digestive system like this is that he’d likely also have a gizzard. Gizzards are the true stomachs of birds (and other animals) that are used to grind up food. Some of them even have rocks inside to help mash up all the food. Which isn’t exactly exciting, but it does produce some horrifying visions of what happens when Kirby doesn’t spit out his prey.

If he swallowed the prey instead, they’d be slowly ground to death inside a muscle-organ filled with rocks. That would be very useful in helping Kirby sidestep many of the issues that beset competitive eaters, such as irritable bowel syndrome. So don’t mess with Kirby, unless you want the gizzard treatment.

Submit your own questions in the comments (or Tweet them to @sciencegroen) and we may tackle them for a future Ask GR Anything.

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  • GhostNappa2k10 - January 6, 2012 6:10 p.m.

    Is it physically possible for Gordon Freeman to talk?
  • Japanaman - January 6, 2012 1:23 p.m.

    Kirby uses energy very fast like The Flash so he has to constantly eat. Within a few seconds of swallowing an object, it starts dissolving in his stomach acid, so he can't regurgitate it anymore. He can store multiple items in his stomach because the food dissolve so fast, it turns to compressed liquids and turns into nutrients through his body quite quickly.
  • Asloveszuko - January 6, 2012 5:10 a.m.

    Not sure if this is confidental information or not, but this IS 'Ask GR Anything'. How does the GR staff randomly choose a winner for a contest? Is there a method to the madness? Names in a hat? A robot? Spin around three times and put your finger on the computer screen? Put all the names on a dartboard and throw a dart? Thank you!
  • Sinosaur - January 6, 2012 10:46 a.m.

    From what few references I've heard about the method on TalkRadar, I'm pretty sure they more or less use a random number generator when it's a random contest winner. So the correct answer is 'a robot that more or less uses names in a hat' only the robot and hat are a simple computer program.
  • Asloveszuko - January 8, 2012 5:36 p.m.

    Ah, very good! Thank you!
  • BubDot - January 5, 2012 9:59 a.m.

    How would I be able to perform a hadoken. Every fight I get into they tell me to go home and be a family man..
  • n00b - January 6, 2012 12:50 a.m.

    i second this question
  • Sinosaur - January 6, 2012 10:44 a.m.

    To perform a hadouken, you will first need to spend years perfecting your martial arts techniques (the hadouken is part of a modified form of Ansatsuken). Once you have mastered the flow of your chi, you can then begin to focus your energies between your hands until they form a ball of power, then you thrust your hands forward and launch it at your opponent. The other option is that you can move the stick from down to forward and then press a punch button. This is a lot easier because it's pretty much the easiest special move that doesn't involve having a spasm on a button.
  • Japanaman - January 6, 2012 1:26 p.m.

    The only special moves from Street Fighter II that can be performed are the Dragon Punch, Hundred Hand Slap, Tiger Uppercut, Tiger Knee, Fei Long's punch combo, Tornado thingy, and Balrog's punches. They eventually added move specials that can be performed in real life such as rock throwing, slide kicks, wrestling grabs, etc.
  • BubDot - January 6, 2012 8:39 p.m.

    I tried the second option it didn't work. So I just beat the crap out of my opponent with the controller. However I was unaware that striking a girl scout is frowned upon. Who knew?
  • theStig - January 5, 2012 7:49 a.m.

    When is rockstar releasing news on agent?
  • theStig - January 5, 2012 7:46 a.m.

    How does a pokeball work?
  • Cwf2008 - January 4, 2012 11:31 p.m.

    I thought it was a black hole...but then again he wouldn't be able to spit stuff back out if it was a black hole o__o
  • therawski - January 5, 2012 8:50 a.m.

    That was what I thought, you could say that at the singularity he spits things back out from the other side, so really he's swallowing things up and they go into another dimension where another Kirby spits them out.
  • Andrew Groen - January 5, 2012 10:24 a.m.

    Haha Well...SOME things can be spit back out. One of Stephen Hawking's great contributions to science was proving that black holes do actually radiate energy (which is important for reasons I'm not qualified to explain.) They radiate the tiniest bits of information. So maybe the pokeball is a system for putting all the radiated energy back together again! Then again, it'd probably be easier to just shove them in a burlap sack.
  • Andrew Groen - January 5, 2012 10:25 a.m.

    Wait, now that I think of it, that might be wrong. I think it was Leonard Susskind who proved black holes radiate. I don't remember. :-(
  • GameManiac - January 5, 2012 10:35 a.m.

    Are you guys forgetting about white holes? Their the polar opposite of black holes, where they expel material rather than assimilate it.
  • BaraChat - January 4, 2012 7:57 p.m.

    I've got one for you guys, even if it's not entirely game-related : How could Elves (LoTR ones) possibly survive in the long-term if they're all immortals, eventually there'll be GAZILLIONS of them all over Valinor and Middle-Earth. There would be overpopulation problems, like food or hygiene. And thanks again for a great, funny read.
  • kiing8kong6 - January 4, 2012 10:08 p.m.

    They are always at war with some. And they dont like to procreate sense they have such high standards lol
  • Andrew Groen - January 5, 2012 10:26 a.m.

    Thanks for the kudos, it's very much appreciated. I've often wondered about the birthrates of elves myself. I'm not really sure that they do procreate. I think they're just an immortal race, and whoever is alive is just alive. I don't think they have generations like we do.