Re: Whale Blood vs Human Blood

From: Joe Dille (
Date: Sun Dec 17 2000 - 15:29:04 EST

On 17 Dec 00, at 10:48, Kim Marshall-Tilas wrote:

> >Questions and Answers:
> >Hi Joe and Joey,
> Please refer to WhaleNet pages for additional information on whale
> anatomy, try the
> page and do a search.
I tried searching, but I did not get the information I was looking for.

> >My son is doing a project on whales. One of the things we want to do is
> >show some of the adaptations that whales have for diving. I understand that
> >whale blood has more oxygen carring capacity than human blood. We want to
> >make some fake whale blood to point this out. It will be water with red
> >sponges. We need some more information so we can make our demonstration
> >accurate: - How much bigger are whale red blood cells than humans, or how else
> >do they carry more oxygen?
> >Is has been found that the oxygen carrying capacity of red blood
> >cells in whales is not signifcantly different than that of land
> >mammals but whales do have a higher volume of blood than humans and
> >the red blood cell surface is about 1.5 times larger. This permits
> >fast absorption and emiision of oxygen needed for diving and rapid
> >surface breathing.

So I guess the "cells" in my fake blood will have larger diameter, and thinner
cells to give them higher area.

> >- How much more red blood cells do whales have than humans on a volume
> basis? (that is x% vs. y%)
> If we refer to blood volume, (information referenced from E
> Slijper's book 'Whales' 1979, Cornell University Press.) He states
> that the heart of a whale is almost 6 feet wide. He doesn't specify
> which whale he's talking about though! The ratio of blood to body
> weight is similar to other mammals. In blue whales it is about 6.5
> %, while in belugas it is 5.5 %.

Perhaps I was not clear. What is the concentration of red cells in whale

Human blood X cells per liter
Whatle Blood Y cells per liter

  Example: If humpback whales have an
> average of 6% of blood relative to body weight, and the average body
> weight of a humpback is between 30 and 34 tonnes then I guess this
> would mean between 400 and 450 gallons of blood.
Thats lots of blood indeed.

> Relative Information:
> Marine mammals can dive deep without getting the bends because they
> have a greater ability to transport oxygen across lung membranes,
> have a higher percentage of oxygen in their blood, and a high
> carbon-dioxide tolerance. During deep dives these animals reduce
> their heart rate (bradycardia) and peripheral blood flow and
> circulation to all areas except the heart and brain. Cetaceans can
> exhale as much as 88% of its lung air with a single breathe (humans
> approx. 12%).

We plan to make fake lungs to illustrate this point. We will use 60cc
syringes and balloons. It should work well.

They also collapse their lungs at about 100m which
> prevents the absorption of nitrogen into the blood, thereby
> preventing the bends. Oxygen use is reduced and heat loss inhibited.
> They regain the ability to dive by maximizing cardiovascular and
> respiratory activity at the surface by varying breathing techniques.
> These adaptations to the respiratory system have allowed deep diving
> in mammals. They do not suffer apnea or asphyxia, and they avoid
> decompression sickness despite the retention of air within the
> respiratory system.
> References:
> 1. Harrison, R.J., Functional Anatomy of Marine Mammals, Academic
> Press: New York, 1974
> 2. Leatherwood, S., Reeves, R., Whales and Dolphins (The Sierra Club
> Handbook), 1983
> --
> Kim Marshall-Tilas
> Senior Director
> Ocean Alliance/Whale Conservation Institute
> 191 Weston Road, Lincoln, MA 01773
> 781.259.0423 or fax 259.0288

Thanks for your help so far. I am still hoping to get the concentration of
blood cells in whale blood.


Joe and Joey

Joe Dille
Telford, PA USA

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