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US News Scientists record a blue whale's heart rate for the first time and find it is already working to its limit

01:35  26 november  2019
01:35  26 november  2019 Source:   inews.co.uk

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Analysis of the data suggests that a blue whale ' s heart is already working at its limit , which may explain why blue whales have never evolved to be bigger. The data also suggest that some unusual features of the whale ' s heart might help it perform at these extremes. Studies like this add to our

For the first time ever, marine biologists have recorded the heart rate of a blue whale in the wild—the results of which even surprised the scientists . The cardiovascular system of the blue whale , while impressive, is probably the limit of what is biologically possible, according to the new

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The first ever recording of the blue whale’s heart rate has found it is working at its limit and this could explain why it never evolved to grow larger.

Researchers at Stanford University collaborated with Paul Ponganis, from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

They collected and then analysed the groundbreaking data captured during an experiment at Monterey Bay, California. A sensor-packed tag was secured onto the whale’s left flipper with four suction cups.

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It recorded the animal’s heart rate through electrodes embedded in the centre of two of the suction feet.

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Analysis revealed that a whale ' s heart is working at its physical limit . This may explain why the Four suction cups secured the sensor near the whale ' s left flipper, where it recorded a heart beat Professor Goldbogen and colleagues found that blue whales slow their heart rate for deep dives

After a deep dive, the whale ’ s surface heart rate pounded at between 25 to 37 times per minute as it recovered from its oxygen debt. The upper range is near the estimated maximum heart rate for such a creature, which may be why blue whales haven't evolved to be even bigger than they are.

Extremes

Analysis of the data suggests that a blue whale’s heart works at its limits.

As well as posing evolutionary questions it could also suggest that some of the unusual features of the whale’s heart enables it to perform at these extremes.

Jeremy Goldbogen, assistant professor of biology in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford and lead author of the paper, said there were “high fives” when they realised they had recorded the heartbeat of the blue whale - the earth’s largest species.

He added that the data could help with the conservation of endangered species.

"Animals that are operating at physiological extremes can help us understand biological limits to size,” he said. “They may also be particularly susceptible to changes in their environment that could affect their food supply.

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The Blue Whale ’ s Heart Beats at Extremes. For the first time , scientists recorded a cardiogram from the largest animal that has ever lived. Goldbogen knows that other divers show a wider range of rates , but he thinks that the blue whale is special for two reasons.

The blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) is a marine mammal belonging to the baleen whale parvorder, Mysticeti. At up to 29.9 meters (98 ft) in length and with a maximum recorded weight of 173 tonnes (190 short tons), it is the largest animal known to have ever existed.

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"These studies may have important implications for the conservation and management of endangered species like blue whales."

Emperor penguins

A decade ago, Goldbogen and Ponganis measured the heart rates of diving emperor penguins in Antarctica's McMurdo Sound.

For many years after they wondered if they could achieve the same with whales.

"I honestly thought it was a long shot because we had to get so many things right: finding a blue whale, getting the tag in just the right location on the whale, good contact with the whale's skin and, of course, making sure the tag is working and recording data," said Goldbogen.

The details of the tag’s journey and the heart rate it delivered were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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