Beaked whales deepest among marine creatures


A tracking tag is attached to the fin of a Cuvier’s beaked whale. The tag helped scientists learn how the whale swims. (Reuters)
March 27

If there were a gold medal for marine mammal diving, it undoubtedly would go to the Cuvier’s beaked whale.

Scientists said Wednesday that they tracked these medium-size whales off the coast of California using satellite-linked tags as the creatures dove down nearly 1.9 miles and spent two hours and 17 minutes underwater before resurfacing.

Those are breathtaking accomplishments for an air-breathing creature. In fact, those figures represent both the deepest and the longest dives ever documented for any marine mammal, said Greg Schorr of the Cascadia Research Collective in Olympia, Washington, who led the study.

“Taking a breath at the surface and holding it while diving to pressures over 250 times that at the surface is an astounding feat,” Schorr said.

The record for a person holding his breath underwater is 22 minutes, according to Guinness World Records.

Cuvier’s beaked whales are found in many deep-water regions from the tropics to cooler waters. They measure up to about 23 feet long, with bodies shaped a bit like a torpedo.

To track the whales, scientists used satellite-linked tags that provided data on the start and end times of a dive and the maximum depth of each dive, as well as the time between dives. The tags were attached to the dorsal fin using two small darts.

The scientists tracked eight whales off the coast of Southern California between 2010 and 2012. Their findings were published in the journal PLOS One.

Reuters

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