Deep Diving: Cuvier‘s Beaked Whales
Cuvier‘s beaked whales are the deepest and longest diving mammal in the world, with recorded dives of up to 2,992 meters deep and 2 hours, 17 minutes in duration. They are occasionally seen in offshore Icelandic waters, but are not as commonly spotted as other toothed whale species, such as orcas, sperm whales, white-beaked dolphins, and harbor porpoises. They have been difficult to study as they spend very little time at the surface between dives. A recent article published in February of this year in Royal Society Open Science discusses a study conducted at Duke University, which expands on our knowledge about this species and establishes a baseline for future studies on how these whales react to low levels of sonar.
This study reveals just how impressive Cuvier‘s beaked whales‘ diving abilities are. The average depths of their deep dives is 1,400 meters, though they can frequently go deeper. Each deep dive is typically followed by 3-4 shallow dives of roughly 300 meters, and they spend around 2 minutes at the surface in between dives. This is impressive not only because of the depths that they can travel, but also because they can withstand the great pressure changes at these depths. They are also capable of holding their breath for very long periods of time and need very little rest in between dives.
We are still not sure how they are able to do this, but with each study our knowledge expands. Hopefully future studies will reveal more information on how these impressive cetaceans are able to master the art of diving! It‘s very exciting to learn more and more about the amazing wildlife in the oceans!
Photo credit: Andrew J. Read