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New deep diving champion whale discovered

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Cuvier's beaked whale has been proclaimed the world’s breath holding and deep diving champion based on research conducted by Gregory Schorr from Cascadia Research Collective and colleagues that was reported in the March 26, 2014, issue of the journal Public Library of Science.

The deepest known dive was two miles deep and lasted for 137 minutes. This dive bested the current record of 1.5 miles deep and 120 minutes held by the southern elephant seal.

The researchers recorded 3,700 hours of diving data, including depth and time of each dive, from tags tracked by satellite that recorded the diving behavior and locations of eight Cuvier's beaked whales off the Southern California coast.

Cuvier's beaked whales do not require an extended recovery period to replenish the oxygen storage in their muscle tissue like other deep diving species like the sperm whale but can average less than two minutes at the surface between dives. This behavior indicates a physiological difference between Cuvier's beaked whale and other whale species.

The majority of the whale’s dives occurred in and around a Navy sonar training range off the west coast of California. Sonar has been implicated in 60 percent of the whale stranding of Cuvier's beaked whales and other whale species in the past. None of the eight whales tracked for nine years during the study were stranded. The researchers conclude that Cuvier's beaked whales have developed an unknown means of coping with the effects of sonar.

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