Marine mammals like whales and seals need extremely in actuality excellent bodies to dive some distance below the waves and withstand the crushing strain of the deep ocean, whereas going with out oxygen for a long length of time.
That’s because mammals, no longer like fish, can finest earn oxygen by breathing the air on the bottom of the ocean.
“For anything else that breathes air and then forages at depth, you have received this accurate disparity that most animals manufacture no longer must manage with,” Nicola Rapid, a marine scientist at Duke College in North Carolina, told Are residing Science. “In actual fact one of their serious resources, air, is in one situation — and their other serious resource, which is meals, is in every other situation.”
But which mammal is able to dive the deepest?
That title likely belongs to Cuvier’s beaked whales (Ziphius cavirostris), mid-dimension whales that are residing in temperate and tropical waters all around the globe. In 2010, researchers began strapping satellite trackers to these animals off the flit of California to document their actions, and they uncovered the whales’ fabulous diving abilities.
In actual fact one of the eight whales they tagged dove down 9,816 feet (2,992 meters), equal to about 32 times the height of the Statue of Liberty. What’s more, the whales may maybe well dive for a really long time — one stayed underwater for bigger than 2 hours.
In 2020, Rapid and her colleagues witnessed a new document after looking at a Cuvier’s beaked whale staying underwater for 3 hours and 42 minutes. That dive became once excluded from the legit results of their gaze because it came after publicity to sonar, which would maybe maybe well have affected the whale’s habits — however the gaze noteworthy that a dive this long may maybe well mutter “the staunch limits of the diving habits of this species.”
Rapid’s paper noteworthy three issues that can enable whales to pause such long dives. First, their blood has excessive concentrations of the proteins myoglobin and hemoglobin, which lets in them to store a bunch of oxygen. Whales can additionally restrict how grand blood flows to the outer ingredients of the physique to make certain the a will must have organs earn enough oxygen.
2d, the whales want a sluggish metabolism so that they manufacture no longer expend up all their oxygen accurate away, the gaze noteworthy. And to assist conserve energy, the animals appear to wing so a lot whereas swimming, Rapid noteworthy.
Lastly, the whales doubtless need one intention to love a flash buffer out the lactic acid their muscle groups assemble whereas swimming — though Rapid mentioned or no longer it is unclear how they would maybe well enact this .
Deep-diving mammals additionally must have the flexibility to withstand the strain skilled when hundreds of feet underwater. The hardest issues to carry delivery in excessive strain are the lungs, since lungs are pockets of air that can maybe well with out dilemma collapse below intense strain. But diving mammals have the skill to flatten out their lungs as they dive to gash the amount of air home they must carry delivery below strain.
Rapid mentioned that scientists believe Cuvier’s beaked whales are foraging for meals whereas they dive, but researchers manufacture no longer know for definite what they’re eating in the deep — though one 2017 paper steered or no longer it is mostly squid.
Other marine mammals can additionally dive deep below the bottom. Southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina), for instance, were discovered diving to around 6,560 feet (2,000 m) deep — as have sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus).