By Katherine J. Wu.
The 1959 movie “Ben-Hur” runs some three-and-a-half hours long. A Cuvier’s beaked whale could watch the entire film underwater, never taking a gulp of air, with time to spare.
“They are remarkable divers,” said Nicola Quick, a marine biologist at Duke University. These pointy-snouted cetaceans, which frequent the world’s deep waters, have clocked the longest and deepest dives of any marine mammal ever recorded, plunging nearly 10,000 feet below the surface of the sea.
Dr. Quick’s latest paper, published Wednesday in the Journal of Experimental Biology, documents the whales’ most impressive observed descent to date: 3 hours 42 minutes, trouncing the previous record by over an hour. The new record is nearly seven times longer than scientists expect the mysterious mammals should be able to dive, based on scientific understanding of their body size and metabolic rate.
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