Brownies support whales and dolphins

18 June 2013

How Do Whales Dive For So Long?

How can some whales hold their breath and stay underwater for so long?

It’s a question that scientists from the University of Liverpool in the UK can now answer.

They’ve discovered that marine mammals, like whales and seals, have special ‘non-stick’ protein in their muscles that stores oxygen.

Storing plenty of oxygen in the body is vital if a mammal is to hold his or her breath for any length of time. Usually, if lots and lots of protein is packed into muscle it sticks together and doesn’t work as it should. But whales and seals are able to pack huge amounts of this protein (and therefore oxygen) into their muscles without this happening.

(c)Andrew Sutton Eco2/Nice Images

Sperm whales are some of the most impressive divers. They can hold their breath for 90-120 minutes, and dive as deeply as 2000 metres (maybe more)!

The current human world record is held by a French man, who stayed under water for 11 minutes and 35 seconds in 2009.

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