From: Catherine Gill, Care2, More from this Affiliate
Published January 21, 2015 05:17 PM

Are Marine Mammals Adapting to Avoid Humans?

Remarkable ocean research shows us that certain whale and seal species are reaching new depths and breaking records by diving so far away from the surface that experts are shocked that they can even survive the pressure. Some animals like the Cuvier’s beaked whales can dive almost 10,000 feet and hold their breath for 138 minutes.

These animals are developing new survival skills, and scientists are finding things like their positively charged myoglobin and pauses to their organ functions to be the secret to their incredible diving depths.

Cuvier’s beaked whales are not the only ones that seem to be adapting. Weddell seals, sperm whales and elephant seals have evolved their abilities to dive deeper and hold their breath longer, as well. In fact, the elephant seal can now hold its breath underwater for two hours.

Is marine hunting and fishing affecting the ocean’s wildlife? Will all marine life someday be hiding in the depths of the ocean, having changed their mechanisms in order to avoid some of their biggest obstacles or negative effects from the environment?

One theory comes from oceanography expert Randall Davis of Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi. Davis believes that marine animals extreme dive for one reason only: to get food. Davis suggests that animals deep dive to get the best payout in terms of food and that they are not enduring the momentous undersea pressure for fun. Could over-catching from the fish industry and environmental changes be the cause of animals having to work harder to find food?

The depths that the Cuvier’s beaked whales are traveling causes 100 times the pressure that they feel at the surface and is enough to cause their lungs to collapse. However, to avoid this peril the whales have lungs that can actually fold down. By doing this, they release all of the air pockets and actually exhale about 90 percent of the oxygen in their lungs.

The decrease in oxygen that these marine mammals experience during this process also causes stunts of blood flow to their major extremities and vital organs, so their bodies shut down the kidney, liver and digestive functions while they dive. They also lower their heart rate. Remarkably, the Weddell seal’s heart rate is reduced down to just four beats per minute during these deep diving sessions.

Continue reading at ENN affiliate, Care2.

Weddell seal pup image via Shutterstock.


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