diving

From: Dagmar Fertl (dagmar_fertl@hotmail.com)
Date: Tue Mar 28 2000 - 11:48:41 EST


How do whales stay under water for as long as they do?
Thank you.

Kara Heininger
E.T. Hamilton Elementary School
Voorhees, NJ
*************************************
Hi Kara, thanks for your question. I believe this has been answered at some
time before on WhaleNet, and if you look thru the WhaleNet archives, you
should find something under diving physiology.

Basically, whales are specially adapted to diving. There are special
adaptations in the circulatory and respiratory systems. The muscles, blood,
spleen, and enlarged and increased complex blood vessels are important for
storing oxygen during diving. Heart rate slows while the animal dives as
well.

Whales are particularly different from us as divers, since they are
voluntary breathers, and can decide when they are going to take a breath of
air. I'm sure you've tried to hold your breath underwater for a long time,
but had a hard time doing so, before you felt like your lungs would pop. A
whale doesn't have the same problem, since its body has characteristics that
allows it to handle less oxygen at times. Whales also take deeper breaths of
air than people do, which means that they have more oxygen in their lungs
before diving underwater than people do.

I hope this answers your question.
Dagmar

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