Subject: Whale Heart Rates

Dagmar Fertl (
Tue, 3 Feb 1998 07:29:50 -0500

Dear Rex,

Your question stumped me enough to ask one of my colleagues, who is a marine 
mammal physiologist, this question.  It would appear that the results of that 
study have not been available, I'm sorry to say.  I do have some suggested 
further reading for you, because of your apparent interest in diving physiology.
I would suggest getting the following references as a follow-up:

Butler, P.J. and D.R. Jones.  1997.  Physiology of diving of birds and mammals. 
Physiological Reviews 77(3): 837-899.

Kooyman, G.L. 1989.  Diverse divers.  Springer Verlag, NY.

It should be noted that most of the work done on physiological responses (incl. 
heart rate) during diving, has been conducted on pinnipeds (seals and sea lions)
since they are easy to work with.  Additionally, much of what we know relatively
to cetaceans (whales & dolphins) is a result of work done in captive situations,
which may not be completely applicable to free-ranging animals.  Lastly, 
variability in heart rate between individuals animals has been noted.  We know 
that the heart rate is reduced during diving, but not always how much it has 
been reduced. 

I have been told by friends that work with stranded cetaceans, that a "normal" 
heart rate for a bottlenose dolphin is around 60 beats per minute.  In a 
situation of working with a stranded animal, anything below 100 beats per minute
is considered a good sign (which means that the heart rate is increasing during 
stressful situations, which is what happens to humans as well).

I know all of this didn't quite answer your intended question, but I hope it 
helps and maybe directs you to what you're looking for.


______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Whale Heart Rates
Author:  McSpaddens <> at ~smtp
Date:    2/2/98 10:23 AM

An R/V Odessy Update 7/94 indicates that Dr. Jorge Reynolds, director of 
the Whale Heart Satellite Tracking program in Columbia succeeded in 
obtaining the first EKGs on sperm whales.  I have been unable to locate 
any source that relates the results of this activity.  Do you have any 
information on this or any other recent activity that has actual results 
on determining whale heart rate.
Thank you for your assistance.  I will check the archive for your 
Rex McSpadden