Outdoors just for kids: Beaked whales the best at holding their breath

2014-04-03T00:00:00Z Outdoors just for kids: Beaked whales the best at holding their breath The Billings Gazette

When my children were little, we always tried to hold our breath when we were driving through tunnels or over bridges. I wasn’t very good at it, but it broke up the drive.

While breathing often is important to humans and other warm-blooded mammals, the Cuvier’s beaked whale, also called the goose-beaked whale, can dive up to 2 miles deep in the ocean while holding its breath for more than two hours.

How can they go so long without fresh air? Such diving mammals can slow their heartbeat, concentrate their blood in organs like the heart and brain. Some can even collapse their rib cage.

The whales dive so deep in the ocean because that is where they find the fish and squid that they like to eat.

Scientists were able to find out how deep and how long the beaked whales stayed under water by attaching tags to the whales and tracking them with satellites. The longest dive they recorded was 137 minutes — that’s two hours and 17 minutes.

What’s also unique about the whales is that they can come back to the surface, take a few deep breaths and dive deep again as quickly as two minutes later. Other deep-diving mammals like sperm whales and elephant seals need more time to recover in between deep dives.

— Brett French, Gazette Outdoors editor

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Brett French

Outdoors editor for the Billings Gazette.

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