Diving

From: Jennifer Philips (jphilips@hawaii.edu)
Date: Tue Jan 29 2002 - 16:21:15 EST


why can whales withstand all of that water pressure when
they dive? and is
there a source i can learn more about it at?

                       thanks
                           sam

Sam,

Good question! Whales have special lungs which are adapted
for the extremely high pressures whales experience at depth.
With the increased pressure of depth, any body is compressed
from all sides, and cavities in the body, such as the lungs,
collapse. In most terrestrial mammals a collapse of the lung
would be nearly fatal, and at least extremely stressful to
the body. Unlike you or me, however, whales can stand the
pressure because they are adapted to allow their lungs to
collapse at depth. When their lungs collapse, the relatively
small volume of air in their lungs is forced to the
capillary exchange points, where it can still be easily
absorbed into the blood stream. When whales come back to the
surface, the lungs automatically expand again, returning to
their "normal" volume. This process is completely natural to
the whale.

Thank you for your question to Whalenet!
Jen Philips



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