Subject: whale heart rate

Leah R. Gerber (
Tue, 29 Jul 1997 13:15:58 -0700

At 07:57 AM 7/17/97 -0700, G. McGuire wrote:
>I wonder if you would have any documentation on the body mass and heart
>rate of whales or other animals? If not, do you know where I might get
>this information?
>Specifically I would like to know the average body mass of an adult
>sperm whale and the rate its heart beats.
>George McGuire

Hello George,

In general, the larger the animal, the slower the heart beat. The sperm
whale is the largest of the toothed whales.  Adult males measure up to 18m
(60 feet) in length.  The usual heart rate of large whales is from 10 to 30
beats per minute. The heart rate of any of these creatures has never been
monitored adequately to give species-specific information, given the
logistical difficulties involved. However, the heart rate of a smaller whale
species, the beluga, was measured once to be 12-20 beats per minute.  Using
this information, one could deduce the heartbeat of a sperm whale might be
slightly lower than a beluga.

There is a very interesting article entitled, "Hunting the Heartbeat of a
Whale" published in National Geographic, Volume 110:49-64 in 1956.  You
might want to take a look at that.  The expedition described in this
article is centered on efforts to obtain the heartbeat of a gray whale,
but background information on other whales is provided.

Good Luck!