Cuvier’s beaked whales are only medium-sized, but they are fascinating creatures at least for the record-holding for the deepest dive below the ocean’s surface. But thanks to scientists from Duke University and the Cascadia Research Collective, we now know that Cuvier’s beaked whales are capable of even more incredible things: one member of these whale species was able to hold its breath underwater for a record-breaking four hours.
The team recorded the dive back in 2017 during observations off the coast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. More precisely, the Cuvier beaked whale that was wearing tag ZcTag066 hold its breath for three hours and 42 minutes.
The depth was surpassing 3,000 metres
Nicola Quick, lead author of the new study and a biologist at Duke University, said that the discovery was truly incredible considering that the scientists were dealing with mammals. Judging by how things usually go in nature, mammals spending so much time underwater isn’t a feasible scenario. However,Quick provided an explanation to Gizmodo for how can whales survive underwater for so much time:
These animals are really adapted to diving, so they have lots of myoglobin in their muscles, which helps them to hold more oxygen in their bodies,
They are also able to reduce their energy expenditure by being streamlined to dive, and we think reducing their metabolic rate. It’s likely they have many other adaptations as well that we still don’t fully understand, such as being able to reduce their heart rates and restrict the movement of blood flow to tissues.
Cuvier’s beaked whale is also named as the goose-beaked whale, and it’s the only member of the genus Ziphius, which is the most widely distributed of all the beaked whales.
The new study was published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.