Researchers from the Cascadia Research Collective have tracked a new record-setting dive by the Cuvier's beaked whale. While studying eight whales off the coast of Southern California, biologists were astonished to find the mammal can reach depths of 10,000 feet—or two miles—below the surface, making the Cuvier's beaked whale the deepest-diving mammal on the planet.
Resembling a bloated bottlenose dolphin, the Cuvier's beaked whale has always been known for its diving capabilities. During the study, published this week in the journal PLOS ONE, biologist Greg Schorr and his team collected more than 3,732 hours of dive data. When one of the whales took its satellite-linked tag two miles deep, the researchers checked their instruments, thinking it was an error. Soon after, a second whale set another record when it stayed submerged for 138 minutes. Most mammals would experience high-pressure nervous syndrome and the collapse of all air-filled spaces in the body at such depths, but the Cuvier's beaked whale seems immune. They are essentially crush-resistant.
Thought to be sensitive to sound, Cuvier's beaked whales have in recent years fallen victim to man-made sonar activity, dying in mass beachings in the Mediterranean Sea, Canary Islands, and the Bahamas. Cuvier's beaked whales are one of the most frequently spotted beaked whales and have a worldwide population of nearly 100,000.