The diving secret of orcas

Orcas are considered some of the most impressive marine mammals on our planet. Their communication abilities, social interactions, and hunting skills attract the attention of scientists and nature enthusiasts. Herds of these intelligent animals, which can number from a dozen to even several dozen members, develop unique sound systems that enable them to exchange information effectively.

Recent discoveries, published in the renowned scientific journal PLOS ONE, shed new light on the breathing cycles of orcas during diving. According to the research, orcas, despite their size and strength, only breathe once between short dives. These data were collected using modern technologies such as drones and specialized suction-cup tags that monitored 11 individuals along the coast of British Columbia.

Orcas rarely perform long dives; their underwater activities usually do not exceed one minute, and the longest recorded dive for an adult male is 8.5 minutes. Dr. Andrew Trites from the Institute of Oceans and Fisheries at the University of British Columbia compares them to sprinters, who unlike whales and humpbacks, are not adapted to long and deep dives.

Understanding that orcas only take oxygen once during a dive allowed scientists to determine the average oxygen demand of these animals. The orcas studied took between 1.2 and 1.3 breaths per minute at rest and between 1.5 and 1.8 when moving or hunting. For comparison, a resting human takes about 15 breaths per minute, and this number can increase to 40-60 during physical effort.

The implications of this research are significant for understanding the metabolic needs of orcas and their survival strategies. With this information, researchers can more accurately estimate the amount of food orcas need daily, which is crucial for conservation strategies for endangered populations, such as the southern ones. Tess McRae, the lead author of the study, emphasizes that knowledge of food availability for orcas is essential for their effective protection.

This new research provides valuable insights into the unique behaviors and biological needs of orcas, enabling a better understanding and more effective protection of this extraordinary species.

Source: PLOS


About the author

Picture of Grzegorz Bubak

Grzegorz Bubak

My fascination with marine aquariums began over two decades ago when I stumbled upon an article about this topic in a magazine. Since then, the underwater world has become my obsession and passion, shaping my everyday life. I started my adventure with marine aquariums with soft corals, which were my first step into this fascinating world. Over time, captivated by the diversity and beauty of SPS corals, I decided to focus on their cultivation, which continues to fill me with constant wonder.

Thanks to my experience and passion for marine aquariums, I am ready to share my knowledge and expertise with other enthusiasts in this field. I am happy to be part of the Reef Pedia community, which serves as an invaluable source of information for all marine aquarium lovers.